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House Preserves George Washington Carrier Refueling Plan

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USS George Washington (CVN-73) on Nov. 24, 2013.

USS George Washington (CVN-73) on Nov. 24, 2013.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post indicated an amendment that would restrict money to fund a complex refueling and overhaul of USS George Washington (CVN-73) offered by Reps. Jared Polis (Colo.)and Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) had passed. That amendment did not pass in the final House version of Fiscal Year 2015 defense bill. USNI News regrets the error.

House lawmakers preserved a legislative effort to keep the USS George Washington (CVN-73) to fund the start the refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) of the carrier as part of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 defense bill.

House members were expected to consider legislation prohibiting the Navy and Defense Department from spending any Pentagon dollars to refuel and overhaul the George Washington.

Proposed as an amendment to the Pentagon’s Fiscal Year 2015 defense spending bill, House Democrats Reps. Jared Polis (Colo.)and Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) proposed the Navy take the $483.6 million set aside for carrier refueling and overhaul to pay for the Navy’s share of the across-the-board defense budget cuts under the sequestration plan initiated by the Obama White House.

However, at the last minute, lawmakers pulled the amendment for consideration in the FY 2015 defense spending package, according to a House staffer. The Pentagon’s FY 2015 fiscal blueprint, without the RCOH prohibition, was approved by the full House by a vote of 325 to 98.

Polis and Blumenauer pulled the legislation over concerns there would not be enough time to fully debate the measure before lawmakers left Washington for the Memorial Day break, according to the staffer. But the staffer did note both lawmakers could reintroduce the measure when House and Senate conferees meet later this year, to hammer out the final version of the defense budget.

“[They] are not ruling anything out,” the staffer told USNI News.

Defense lawmakers on the Senate side are expected to unveil their version of the FY ’15 plan later this week. However, the Senate defense bill will not come to the full Senate vote until the fall.

The Polis and Blumenauer bill ran contrary to a decision by House Armed Services Committee (HASC) members, who voted earlier this month to insert money into the budget to start the advanced acquisition of material for the George Washington refueling from the budgetary chopping block.

The four-year RCOH process costs more than $3 billion. That total rises to $7 billion over five years to also retain a ship’s crew and aircraft from the carrier air wing.

In February, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced the Pentagon would wait until the FY 2016 budget to decide if it would allow the Navy to refuel George Washington or instead decommission the ship, dropping the fleet to 10 carriers. Hagel said at the time keeping the carrier would be contingent on Congress eliminating sequestration spending limits brought about by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

However top service brass and their backers in the House, most notably Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) and Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), vehemently pushed back against the plan, arguing the Pentagon was legally obligated to maintain an 11-carrier fleet.

“This year’s defense policy bill ensures that our Navy maintains an 11 aircraft carrier Fleet, makes important investments in the future of the carrier air wing, begins modernizing Navy cruisers next year, and provides for continued procurement of Virginia-class submarines,” Forbes said in a Thursday statement provided to USNI News.
“The bill’s successful passage strengthens the Navy in the years ahead as we prepare to meet the national security challenges of the 21st century.”

Proponents of the 11-ship carrier fleet also argued eliminating George Washington would affect the White House and Pentagon’s plans to dramatically increase U.S. military presence in the waters of the Asia-Pacific region.

Along with Thursday’s preservation of RCOH funding in the House defense bill, defense lawmakers in the lower chamber also overwhelmingly approved a plan to mothball 11 Ticonderoga-class (CG-47) cruisers and three Landing Dock Ships (LSDs). Forbes attempted to block the retirements in the HASC draft of the spending plan, to no avail.

Forbes failed plan would have the Navy to retain a total of 22 cruisers and 12 LSDs in the fleet.

  • John

    Carlo, are you sure that’s correct? I’m not seeing that here: http://repcloakroom.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=380853
    Looks like they passed the FY15 NDAA without that amendment.

  • Secundius

    > 11 Large Aircraft Carriers, Maybe some Medium and/or Light/Jeep Carriers!

    The aircraft carrier is the biggest stick we have, reduce or gut are carrier force. The we become a second rate or even a regional power navy.

  • The_Usual_Suspect61

    Expected behavior from the anti-American Left. This track of thought is not a strategy for shoring up the defense of the United States of America. It is part of a strategy to punish us for our power and past success. These are the same people who believe that appeasement is a good foreign policy tool. It is better to have the power and ability to use it at hand and not need it than to need it and not have it. Err on the side of continued survival.

  • Secundius

    > to The Last Writer, What Navy on What Planet are you talking about?

    The last Congressional Report I read, stated the Right is trying to gut the Navy. Not the Left! The Right doesn’t even want too fund the Navy, they would rather try to de-fund the Navy. Their way of thinking is, “Expect the Best, and Ignore the Worst.”

  • James Freeborn

    Several other sources I’ve seen say the full House NDAA blocked the cruiser layup. This is the only one I’ve seen that says the amendment failed.

  • Secundius

    Hey that’s just the GOP doing their job, that’s what they do best, didn’t you know that.

  • James Freeborn
  • Charles Gallagher

    The Navy cannot accomplish its new construction and ship modernization goals within its existing and expected budgets. The best current solution is to not refuel the George Washington. Risking the lives of 5000 on a 100,000 ton ship is not prudent. With the advances in drone technology we can get more bang for our buck with modernizations to ships 1/2 that size such as the LHA, LHD, and LPD classes. In addition we will then be able to afford the planned modernization upgrades to the DDG 51 Class.

    • Marcd30319

      The trade-off in terms of air-wing size, munitions, stores, etc. is NOT worth it. We tries that with the CVV during the Carter administration, naturally, and it ended up that the conventional-powered CVV with less than 2/3 the aircraft and half the munitions and stores cost nearly as much as a repeat Nimitz-class supercarrier. In fact, that’s what happened, an d the ship was the USS Theodore Roosevelt.