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Video: How will budget cuts impact the US Navy?

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    >>> there is genuine improvement in the performance of afghan national security forces. but, the taliban is still robust enemy. the games are still fragile. i don't think there's ever going to be an optimal point where we say this is all done. this is perfect. this is just the way we wanted it. now, we can wrap up all our equipment and go home. there's a process. it's sometimes a messy process.

    >> welcome back to " morning joe ." 21 past the hour. with us now, the secretary of the u.s. navy , ray mabus .

    >> great to have you, mr. secretary. we just found out something important about you. the men and women of the navy are in capable hands. he's a red sox fan.

    >> i was going to say his daughter is graduating from harvard.

    >> both of them.

    >> they are close. you are a red sox fan, that's fantastic. so, let's talk about -- let's talk about the united states navy and specifically, you know, i represented pensacola, obviously, we have a close tie to the navy. it seemed like in the '80s and '90s, every time america got in trouble, it was the navy and the air force on the front lines. not so since 9/11. talk about the navy's roll from iraq to afghanistan to iran, all over the world right now.

    >> the navy has a huge role. i'll give you one day in the navy. picked a day from last year. on one day, we had 20,000 marines fighting in afghanistan . we had another 4,000 sailors on the ground in afghanistan supporting the 12,000 sailors at sea flying combat air over afghanistan . that same day, we had submarines and destroyers launching tomahawk missiles in libya. we had a ship with marine air going over libya.

    >> right.

    >> same day, fighting on foot off the coast of africa, the same day the ronald reagan strike group delivered assistance to japan, same day going around africa, south american south pacific . the navy is everywhere. we are america 's away team. when we are doing a job, we are a long, long way from home. people don't understand how good the navy is. just how good the marines are. just how skilled and dedicated they are.

    >> obviously, the marines are the tip of the spear. the army has been spread thin. talk about the marines , have they been stretched thin by the challenges?

    >> we ask a lot of the services. a lot of the marines and the navy. the navy, the rotations are getting longer, getting more often. we are beginning to stress both our ships and our people but we have the most resilient force we have ever had.

    >> let's talk about that. talk about the repeat tours of duty and what it means for the children. the spouses of those serving our country. for marines , what -- what -- how many tours of duty have they had, repeat tours have they had?

    >> marines have a different model. they want you to come in, stay four years and go home. go do something. be a leader. you do two tours if you join the marines . that's normal in four years.

    >> the navy?

    >> the navy, the rotation. it's the operational tempo. how many times you leave port. how long you stay gone. those are getting longer and the rotations are getting closer together. but, we have this incredibly resilient force. the families are resilient. the children are resilient. we are worried. if the president and first lady --

    >> it's a readiness concern at this point.

    >> but we are ready. we have the best force we have ever had. the best educated. the best trained. the most skilled. i was in the navy 40 years ago. we rarely left port without leaving a couple guys back in jail. that doesn't happen today. it doesn't happen. we got too good a force.

    >> mr. secretary, you listed all the places the navy is active and doing a great job. the next thing coming in washington are budget cuts. everybody recognizes there are going to be cuts in the defense budget . where does that leave the navy? how much cut can you stand? how much margin do you have to be able to do the things you were talking about?

    >> clearly, the military has to play their part in getting the financial house in order. but, from 9/11 until i took office, eight years later, the fleet went from 318 to 242 ships. in one of the great military defense build ups, the navy got smaller. we have reversed that. by the end of this decade, we'll be back to 300 ships. we are building more ships, even in this very constrained military environment and budget environment. we are going to have the fleet and we have the fleet today. to do all the missions that we have been given, to do it all over the world, we are using our ships differently. we are putting ships in singapore and spain so we don't have to go these long distances. we have the fleet we need and we have the capabilities we need. in particular, we have the sailors and marines we need to run these incredibly expensive missions.

    >> we have the fleet we need now. take it from bahrain to tokyo. do we have enough ships five years down the road?

    >> absolutely. we are growing the fleet . we reversed a presip dus decline. a year before this administration came in, in 2008 we built ships. today, we have 39 under contract.

    >> now, we are focused on the budge it cuts. isn't that going to have some impact on you deploying forces?

    >> the numbers i'm talking about count for retiring seven cruisers early and others into reserve status and not building 17 ships we planned to build over the next five years. deferring those. even with that, we are building the fleet and increasing the number of ships we have and increasing the capabilities. very versatile and flexible ships that can do any mission and can meet anything coming over the horizon. the one thing certain when a carrier strike group leaves port, the one thing certain is they are going to face something it did not expect.

    >> speaking of facing something they don't expect, obviously tensions are as high as ever in the persian gulf . are we having to prepare, is the navy preparing for a possible war with iran?

    >> the new defense strategy we have that the president announced in january says we are going to have particular focus on two areas, the person pacific and the arabian gulf . we have been in those two areas for decades now. we are prepared for anything that comes either in the western pacific or the arabian gulf or anywhere else on earth. we have -- we have the right kinds of warships but i'm just going to keep circling back. the weapon that we have that is our ace in the hole are the people manning these ships, the marines that are on deployment. these people have been asked over and over again over the last decade to sacrifice, to serve and they have stepped up every single time. they continue to do that. that's the great part of my job is getting to deal with people who are that dedicated, that patriotic. 1% of america , fewer than 1% serves in uniform, protects the other 99%. that represents the best of america .

    >> all right.

    >> to highlight the point you made, there is always a way. always working to serve this country, tens of thousands of men and women you represent. we thank you. and them for your service. thank you very much.

    >> ray mabus , good to have you on the show. on tomorrow's show, colin powell will be here on set. " morning joe " is back in a

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