The Pentagon is postponing deployment of two warships to the Persian Gulf because of possible budget cuts, leaving just one U.S. aircraft carrier in the Middle East region.
The aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman and the guided missile cruiser USS Gettysburg were to leave for the Mideast this week, but they will instead remain in port in Norfolk, Virginia.
The Pentagon said the deployment was "delayed" rather than cancelled, and said the two warships could put to sea on an emergency basis if necessary.
The USS John C. Stennis now will be the only American aircraft carrier in the Gulf. Two carriers had been stationed there at all times since 2010, when Iran threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, a vital transportation route for oil tankers.
The Pentagon, like nearly every government agency, faces deep spending cuts that will be triggered automatically on March 1 unless Congress passes a federal budget or takes other action to meet fiscal deadlines.
In a speech Wednesday in Washington, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta blasted what he called "partisan dysfunction" and "legislative madness" in Congress. He said lawmakers' inability to agree on important bills threatens Americans' quality of life, the economy and national security.
Despite reducing the U.S. military presence in the Gulf, a Pentagon spokesman said the United States will continue to keep a robust military presence in the Middle East - ready to respond to any contingency and to confront any threat in the region.