Budget cuts to hurt U.S. Pacific ‘pivot’

Kyodo

A senior U.S. officer said Tuesday that possible compulsory budget cuts taking effect next month could force the navy to delay its planned major shift to the Asia-Pacific region and reduce exercises in the region.

The naval officer made the remark before reporters after attending the Senate Armed Forces Committee’s hearing on possible impacts of the sequestration budget cuts that will come in March if Democrats and Republicans fail to agree on budget reforms.

The funding cuts could also lead the Pentagon to reduce its planned procurements of the MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft and outlays for developing the F-35 next-generation stealth fighter, according to a Pentagon paper presented to the committee.

The U.S. has deployed 12 of the tilt-rotor Osprey in Okinawa, while Japan has said it will buy the F-35 for the Air Self-Defense Force.

The compulsory defense spending cuts would come to an estimated $8.6 billion in the year to September, forcing the Pentagon to cut the number of ship operation days and aircraft flight hours by one-third in the Pacific, the paper said.

The budget cuts are expected to affect Japan-U.S. defense cooperation and Japan’s defense buildup.

President Barack Obama in his State of Union address Tuesday urged Congress to avoid the compulsory budget cuts.