- US Navy
- The Pentagon has reportedly decided to mothball one of its aircraft carriers, the USS Harry S. Truman, two decades early.
- The move, however, is already receiving pushback from Congress.
- The chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee said he thinks there is “zero” chance the reported plan will be approved if it is put before Congress this year, according to Defense News.
The Pentagon reportedly plans to retire an aircraft carrier two decades early in a high-stakes bid to secure the billions of dollars needed to build new Ford-class carriers, but Congress is already pushing back.
The Department of Defense reportedly has plans to mothball the USS Harry S. Truman far ahead of schedule, reducing the size of the carrier fleet from its legally required 11 ships to only 10, Breaking Defense reported Wednesday, building on an earlier report from The Washington Post. A key lawmaker said that’s not going to happen on his watch.
Rep. Joe Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat and the chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee, said on Thursday that he will block plans to decommission the Truman ahead of schedule, according to Defense News.
The Pentagon reportedly intends to retire the Truman early instead of completing its midlife overhaul in 2024, a necessity for nuclear-powered aircraft carriers that need to have their nuclear reactor cores refueled. The plan could, according to Breaking Defense, save $30 billion over 25 years.
The life of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is roughly fifty years, and the Truman entered service in 1998. Courtney told reporters that the carrier is too young, saying that there is “zero” chance his committee will approve the decommissioning of the Truman this year.
“The Truman is only about 25 years old, which in [terms of] an aircraft carrier is actually pretty young,” he said, explaining that it is contradictory to take steps to reduce the size of the US Navy’s carrier fleet when Congress is supporting the fleet’s expansion with the purchase of two additional carriers.
Rep. Rob Wittman, a Virginia Republican and a ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower and projection forces subcommittee, also opposes the plan to scrap the Truman.
“We have made a significant investment in these ships, and I am perplexed why anyone would consider taking the cornerstone of the United States Naval Force and allowing it to atrophy,” he told USNI News on Thursday.
A number of other lawmakers are also confused by the move, The Virginia-Pilot reported. Congress was reportedly blindsided by reports the Pentagon intends to retire the USS Truman.
The USS Truman is a 95,000-ton bargaining chip in the apparent Defense Department effort to get more shipbuilding money from Congress – and a card that the Pentagon has played before.
The Navy tried to mothball the USS George Washington during the Obama administration. To prevent a big fight with Congress, which was brewing at the time, the White House intervened and offered additional funding that essentially increased the defense budget, Stars and Stripes reported in 2014.
If Courtney’s comments and those of other lawmakers are anything to go by, Congress is unlikely to allow the Pentagon to take this drastic action with the Truman, but it remains to be seen whether the military will get the additional funding it’s apparently seeking.