Jacksonville, FL - With the full effects of sequestration now sinking in, Naval Station Mayport is starting to deal with some of the very real consequences.
This week, furloughs took effect for hundreds of civilian workers.
“We’re managing the furloughs, quite frankly, with some very detailed scheduling,” says Naval Station Mayport Commanding Officer Doug Cochrane.
Cochrane says they had to immediately test their capabilities with furloughs this week while tracking what the base could possibly have to do as a result of then-Tropical Storm Chantal. He says it was a logistical challenge to figure out the personnel that would be available to move the ships where they needed to be in order to be safe during the storm.
“It makes for an interesting work day, week, month and year,” he says.
The challenge on the sea has been two fold.
Rear Admiral Sinclair Harris, who commands the Fourth Fleet at Mayport, says the largest concern right now is their counter-drug and crime operations.
“I have no warships that are operating in the area of responsibility,” he says.
Considering the fleet was responsible for seizing billions of dollars worth of illicit drugs last year, he says not having a ship on an active patrol is a problem.
“Metric tons worth (of drugs)-and not just one or two- are able to freely flow in to the United States,” he says.
The ships would also be patrolling against human trafficking, money laundering and organizations working against American interests.
While crime makes up a significant portion of their mission, the Fleet is also responsible for humanitarian aid and support during natural disasters, like the Haiti earthquake. Harris tells me that second aspect of their mission is hurt as well by recent cuts because all the resources they need are not on hand in the area. Getting them here, would mean aid then arriving where it’s needed with significant delay.
Despite these concerns, Cochrane says he has every confidence they will ultimately get the job at hand done. Harris says the cuts are forcing them to take an innovative approach to the future, and it’s a challenge they are both happy to rise to meet.