Navy leaders reassure sailors about sequestration, shutdown
SAN DIEGO — Sailors peppered the chief of naval operations and the master chief petty officer with questions Tuesday, expressing concerns about how sequestration cuts and the government shutdown will affect them and their families.
CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert opened the all-hands call — held as part of a Navy’s birthday celebration — with brief remarks about the service’s history. He said that while the shutdown is a “regrettable situation… like all sailors throughout history, throughout our heritage, we are where we are, and we make do with the best we can do.”
Greenert and MCPON Michael Stevens hosted the call from a TV studio at Ft. Meade, Md., and sailors who weren’t in the audience sent in questions via phone, video and social media.
The first question: How will the healthcare overhaul affect Tricare?
“There’s no impact” for active-duty servicemembers, their families or retirees on Tricare, Greenert said.
A sailor from San Diego said she heard that retirement pay was going to decrease or be eliminated.
Greenert assured her that “there is no reduction in retirement pay,” and said he could not imagine eliminating the retirement system, “or we wouldn’t have much of an all-volunteer force.”
Congress has appointed a commission to look at retirement and entitlements, Greenert said, but its recommendations are “a long way out.”
“If you wear a uniform today, that is your retirement system: The one that you joined up to,” Greenert said. “There’s no reduction in the near term.”
Greenert and Stevens also fielded questions about how the Navy will increase the number of ships at sea in the sequestration environment, whether active-duty servicemembers will have to replace civilian workers long term, how tuition assistance has been impacted by the government shutdown and whether servicemembers will be paid on time.
Greenert’s answer to the last question was the same as what he told another sailor who worried that if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, servicemembers wouldn’t get paid: Military pay is taken care of no matter what.
Stevens said anyone who had applied and been approved for tuition assistance before Sept. 30 will be able to get that money. Anyone who applies now cannot get the funds until after the shutdown ends.
Greenert also said that while some deployments were stopped or lengthened because of sequestration, the Navy “went ahead and made the same assumption that we’d be under the same situation” next year, so leaders planned deployments accordingly. Those for fiscal 2014 are already set, he said, and will average seven and a half months for aircraft carriers, six months for submarines and seven months for other ships, he said.