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Updated: Navy Unfunded Request for Carrier Refueling Removed

USS George Washington (CVN 73) is moored pier side in Yokosuka, Japan on Feb. 8, 2014. US Navy Photo

USS George Washington (CVN 73) is moored pier side in Yokosuka, Japan on Feb. 8, 2014. US Navy Photo

The headline and post have been updated to reflect comments from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

A $796 million line item that would go toward the refueling and overhaul of USS George Washington (CVN-73) was removed from the Navy’s unfunded requirements list, several sources confirmed to USNI News.

The move raises questions if the larger Defense Department establishment is intent on keeping an 11 carrier U.S. Navy, or reduces it by one as a cost savings strategy.

The unfunded priorities list — originally requested by House Armed Service Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) as part of the Fiscal Year 2015 budget submission — itemizes priorities all of the services would buy if they had additional funds over their budget submissions.

In at least one version of the list, submitted to OSD, the Navy included the funds that would start assembling materials for the Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) of George Washington — a three year almost $3 billion effort to extend the life of the aircraft carrier for an additional 25 years, several sources confirmed to USNI News. The list also included 22 EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft.

However, the list from the Navy did not go directly to Congress and was vetted by OSD before the final version was delivered.

The final Pentagon approved version of the list — delivered to Congress but not yet released — had the $796 million line item removed, multiple sources confirmed to USNI News.

“The Navy unfunded priority list submitted to OSD which was signed by the CNO included no funding for USS George Washington’s RCOH,” a defense official told USNI News on Wednesday afternoon.

Navy sources told USNI News the service had little visibility on the list by the time it reached the Pentagon but several confirmed the RCOH line item was on the submission.

Several legislative sources told USNI News that the final version of the yet-to-be released unfunded list from the Pentagon had the line item removed. A draft version the Pentagon had given to Congress had included the $796 million request.

In late February, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that decommissioning George Washington could be an option for the Pentagon as a cost saver for the DoD.

“We will have to make a final decision on the future of the George Washington aircraft carrier in the 2016 budget submission,” Hagel said on Feb. 24.
“If sequestration spending levels remain in place in Fiscal Year 2016, she would need to be retired before her scheduled nuclear refueling and overhaul.”

Unfunded lists have been a controversial political tool the services have used for years.

Famously, the U.S. Air Force delivered an unprecedented $19 billion unfunded list for Fiscal Year 2009 to Congress that included a $1.1 billion for funds for the F-22 Raptor tactical fighter by then Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley.

Not long after the Air Force unfunded submission then Secretary of Defense Robert Gate stopped the practice.


  • Marc

    Didn’t Jim Webb resign as SECNAV for something similar?

  • Marcd30319

    Maybe if the USS George Washington was renamed the USS Barack Obama, SECDEF Hagel will have a reason to save CVN-73.

  • @NotRizzo

    I had been confident the CVN-73 “retirement” was a bluff, but now I’m more and more convinced that no matter what the CNO or SecNav say OSD is calling the shots and very much wants to retire her, plus her airwing and escorts. It’s just too juicy a target in this budget enviornment. The question now is does the Navy brass still have the pull on Capital Hill to get Congress to override them? My fear is that the defense hawks wings are clipped.

    • Marcd30319

      Another Revolt of the Admiral, with the Democrats looking at the U.S, Navy as nothing but a convoy and ASW force.

  • 2IDSGT

    CVN-73 will be converted into low-income housing and be referred to as “Obama-Boat.”

    • FREAK

      it could be an off shore prison.

  • Jake

    Why doesn’t the navy just retire the USS Nimitz instead? That way, the shipyard still gets the work on GW and maintains their RCOH proficiency. Oh wait, I forgot, as they will soon realize with the Enterprise, retiring a nuclear powered carrier is more expensive than keeping it operating! We need to go back to building conventional carriers. Empirical research has shown that “fossil” fuel carriers are cheaper to build, operate, maintain, and dispose of.

    • Daniel

      There are two reasons for a nuclear powered carrier … Speed and Range!
      A Conventionel Carrier at a full speed dash through the pacific burns fuel faster than a sailor drinks his beer in a bar after 6 month out at sea. And refuelling at sea takes time and is in wartime a huge risk for the carrier, because he has to sail in a straigt line for hours until the tanker has transfered all the fuel! Not to mention sailing side by side with a fuel-air bomb like a tanker beside you isn´t very tempting when someone is stalking your carrier in the ocean.

      • FREAK

        totally agree.. and no green house gasses.. oh boy..