The Navy needs to start saving money, and one of the ways it wants to do that is by retiring one of its old Nimitz-class carriers, the USS Harry S. Truman, rather than just overhauling the ship. The Truman is barely halfway through its lifespan. It began its service in 1998, is scheduled for a nuclear refueling in 2024, and set to serve for at least 50 years.
But the plan to retire the carrier is already facing opposition from Congress, despite saving billions of dollars and ensuring the construction of two new Ford-class carriers.
The USS Gerald R. Ford.
Congressional leaders were “blindsided” by the Navy’s decision, especially considering a number of seapower doctrines the move will break, including the minimum force law (yes, it’s a law, 10 U.S. Code § 5062) of maintaining at least 11 aircraft carriers and a call for an increase to 12 carriers. Resistance to the Navy’s plan is already mounting among members of Congress, despite the backing of acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford.
The arguments for the retirement of the Truman include a – billion savings over the next few decades, increased employment for the building of two new Ford-class carriers, and a 12-carrier Navy. Former seapower subcommittee chairman Rep. Rob Wittman questioned the move as it relates to the Navy’s plan of providing two carriers constantly on station with three more able to surge forward.
The USS John C. Stennis, the 7th Nimitz-class carrier in the Persian Gulf.
Retiring the Truman would keep the total force of carriers below the number required for several years, which is what lawmakers are currently concerned about most. The Navy would have a difficult time with its global power projection abilities. Still, Gen. Dunford argued about the wisdom of refueling a 25-year-old ship vs. investing in new technologies that would allow for greater projection of global power and the use of new technologies, such as unmanned vehicles.
But Congress has to deal with the monetary issues of having already purchased the Truman’s new reactor cores and the feasibility of new technologies to be integrated into the Navy’s maritime strike capabilities.
“I don’t think the president’s going to turn to the secretary of defense and say, ‘where are my unmanned surface vessels’ when a conflict breaks out in the world,” said Rep. Elaine Luria. “They’re going to turn and ask, ‘where are my aircraft carriers?'”