Trump drops plan to retire the USS Truman

Trump drops plan to retire the USS Truman
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The Trump administration has scrapped plans to retire the USS Harry S. Truman early, Vice President Pence said Tuesday.

Pence made the announcement while speaking to crew members aboard the aircraft carrier, hours after top Navy officials defended the administration's previous plan.

"As I stand before you today, I know that the future of this aircraft carrier is the subject of some budget discussions in Washington, D.C.," Pence said in Virginia.

"As we continue to fight Congress to make sure that our military has the resources you need to accomplish your mission, President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Overnight Health Care: Trump steps up attack on WHO | Fauci says deaths could be lower than first projected | House panel warns federal stockpile of medical supplies depleted | Mnuchin, Schumer in talks over relief deal Trump says he'll look into small business loan program restricting casinos MORE asked me to deliver a message to each and every one of you on the deck of the USS Truman," he continued.

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"We are keeping the best carrier in the world in the fight. We are not retiring the Truman," he said to applause. "The USS Harry S. Truman is going to be giving them hell for many more years to come."

The carrier, first commissioned in 1998, was set to undergo a lengthy and $3.5 billion midlife refueling process in 2024.

But the Pentagon announced plans as part of Trump’s 2020 budget request to reduce its aircraft carrier fleet from 11 to 10 by retiring the USS Truman early as part of a cost-cutting measure.

As recently as Tuesday morning, top Navy officials were defending the plan.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee as part of his confirmation to be the Navy’s top officer, current Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran said retiring the Truman will allow the Navy to fund new technologies such as drone ships.

“We believe we’re going to need to modernize our force in a way we haven’t thought of in the past — especially in the unmanned arena,” Moran said.

On Monday, the current Navy chief, Adm. John Richardson, also defended the plan, similarly arguing that the Navy needs to look forward to new technologies.

“The most mortal sin we can have right now is to stay stable or stagnant,” Richardson said at the Future Security Forum.

But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were skeptical of retiring the Truman, and observers expected language in the annual defense policy bill to prevent it from happening.

For example, at Tuesday’s Senate hearing, Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocratic senator rips Navy head's 'completely inappropriate' speech on ousted carrier captain Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much Students with disabilities could lose with COVID-19 stimulus package MORE (D-Va.) said the idea is “just kind of a head-scratcher for us."

And Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeHouse Republicans threaten pushback on Saudi Arabia amid oil market slump Navy chief resigns amid uproar over handling of aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis COVID-19 and the coming corruption pandemic MORE (R-Okla.) previously told top Pentagon officials at a March hearing that he was “not happy” about the plan.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Democratic senator rips Navy head's 'completely inappropriate' speech on ousted carrier captain Democrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog MORE (D-Va.) blasted the administration on Tuesday over its plans to retire the aircraft carrier, arguing it appeared to be "a budget gimmick all along."

"While I am glad the administration ultimately reconsidered this terrible idea, the incoherence here has not been good for morale or defense planning," he tweeted.

Updated: 2:30 p.m.