Lawmaker Says Sequester Could Force Navy to Drop to Eight Carriers
BY JOHN C. MARCARIO, Associate Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy will have a huge fight on its hands to keep the current fleet of carriers at 11, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said May 1 in discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
“They will have a devil of a time keeping them at eight carriers,” he said.
The main culprit for this, Smith said, would be the return of sequestration in fiscal 2016, as the Navy has to balance building Littoral Combat Ships, Virginia-class submarines and destroyers along with refueling costs for aircraft carriers. Smith said the challenges will only get worse once the Ohio-class submarine replacement program kicks into gear.
Defense officials have said the first Ohio-class replacement boat will cost $6.3 billion in fiscal 2021 and each subsequent submarine will cost $4.9 billion with the last one will begin being built in fiscal 2035.
“That eats up a huge chunk of the budget,” he said, especially if sequester cuts, which were enacted on March 1, 2013, but eased for two years in December by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, return in full.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Seapower April 16 that discussions had begun on how to reduce the cuts in future years, but Smith said he does not know anyone who is overly optometric that there is a path to get rid of the cuts.
The possibility a decrease in the carrier fleet already has met with fierce opposition from lawmakers, notably Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., the chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee.
Forbes has criticized the Navy’s decision to defer a decision on the planned midlife overhaul and nuclear refueling USS George Washington for another year, or potentially decommission the ship, pointing out that the law says the Navy must have 11 carriers in the fleet.
In his subcommittee’s April 30 mark of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, Forbes included funding that would support the nuclear refueling of the carrier, which he pointed out has 25 years of service life remaining.
The Navy has said it would take $7 billion over five years to keep George Washington and its air wing in the fleet, and it would not have that money under the sequestration-level budgets.Back to Top