Mabus: “We Very Much Want to Keep” George Washington
BY JOHN C. MARCARIO, Associate Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The decision to not include funds in Navy’s fiscal 2015 budget request to put the aircraft carrier USS George Washington through midlife refueling and overhaul does not signal that the Navy plans to decommission it, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said March 25 during a House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on defense budget hearing.
The carrier is scheduled to begin midlife refueling in 2016, but the Navy’s move has left some in Congress suggesting that it meant the service already had made the decision to decommission George Washington in fiscal 2016.
Committee Chairman Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chastised the panel, which included Mabus, Chief of Naval Operations ADM Jonathan W. Greenert and Marines Commandant Gen James F. Amos, saying questions remained over the decision to not fund the overhaul in fiscal 2015.
Mabus said the Navy will work the committee, and do whatever it’s asked to show that the service plans to maintain an 11-carrier fleet and carry out the refueling in later years.
“The only thing we have done with the George Washington is move the decision one year … Having said that, we very much want to keep the [ship],” he said.
“We’ve got an issue here. …We need to be able to plan what you are going to do. It’s an enormous cost if we change our mind, as you know,” Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., said.
Mabus received the lion’s share of questions from appropriators, which focused on a potential base realignment and closure (BRAC) decision in fiscal 2017, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) fleet, risk levels, sequestration and the Ohio replacement submarine replacement program. The Navy Department’s fiscal 2015 budget request of $148 billion is part of the Department of Defense $495.6 billion request.
On the potential for a BRAC, Mabus said everything needs to be on the table in this fiscally constrained environment.
“In the past, because of past BRAC rounds, we have gotten rid of most of our excess capacity,” he said.
Greenert said he, too, supports a BRAC if it’s needed.
“It’s not a bad process and it’s kind of cleansing to look at what you need strategically and make a business case analysis of it,” he said.
Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., was concerned that budget cuts were causing both the Navy and Marine Corps to have an unacceptable level of risk.
Mabus said the fiscal 2015 budget would provide an acceptable level of risk, but noted that going forward that risk would dramatically increase if the strict budget caps under sequestration return.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 eased deep cuts from the Budget Control Act of 2011 for two years, but those cuts will return in fiscal 2016 unless Congress intercedes, thus lower the Defense Department’s budget cap.
Amos said the level or risk is a balancing act of resources. The Marines currently have a force of 193,000, but that could drop to 175,000 in the coming years because of budget caps. The commandant said that the forward-deployed force is highly capable and ready, but he’s had to take things away from the bases at home in order to maintain a capable forward-deployed force.
On the LCS, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a memorandum in February that “no new contract negotiations beyond 32 ships will go forward.”
The Navy intended to purchase 52 LCSs and already has contracted for 24 ships. Under the current guidance, the Navy can procure up to eight more LCSs.
Mabus said this is not an unusual decision to make for a new class of Navy ships. He added that the first LCS deployment of USS Freedom last year to Singapore was a success despite some maintenance problems.
Mabus said the Ohio replacement program remains on track, noting that the first submarine should begin to be built in fiscal 2021 to be ready for sea by the end of the decade.
The current Ohio-class fleet is scheduled to begin decommissioning in fiscal 2029. The replacement program is slated to build 12 ballistic-missile submarines to replace the 14 currently in service. There are 18 total Ohio-class submarines in the fleet as four were converted to guided-missile submarines.Back to Top