The Obama administration has sent mixed messages about the impact of the cuts.
Two weeks ago, US Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter warned lawmakers of near-term “readiness crisis.” Among the litany of impacts on the military, he said there could be a one-third reduction in operations of US Navy ships and aircraft in the Asia-Pacific.
In Guam, US Pacific Air Forces commander General Herbert Carlisle said he believed the cuts could threaten the US’ role as a superpower. He added that China’s military — especially its navy — has been undergoing a “massive buildup” and is becoming a more credible challenge to its US counterpart.
However, this week, US defense chiefs adopted a more reassuring tone.
Mark Lippert, the top defense official for the Asia-Pacific, acknowledged “everything is on the table” in terms of what could be cut, but reaffirmed the US’ intent to base about 60 percent of its navy ships in the region by 2020 — up from about 50 percent now — and to increase the number of air force aircraft in the region by 2017.
“There’s a strong sense within the administration that the rebalance is a priority and we’ll work to make that continue,” Lipper said at Wednesday’s conference.