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 TrumpFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Missouri Rep. Billy Long enters Senate GOP primary Trump-backed Mike Carey wins GOP primary in Ohio special election 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 KaineOvernight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response The infrastructure bill creates more need for workforce training Biden officials back repealing Iraq War authorization 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 InhofeOvernight Defense: Biden administration expands Afghan refugee program | Culture war comes for female draft registration | US launches third Somalia strike in recent weeks Up next in the culture wars: Adding women to the draft Gillibrand expects vote on military justice bill in fall MORE (R-Okla.) previously told top Pentagon officials at a March hearing that he was “not happy” about the plan.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerOvernight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response One officer dead after violent incident outside Pentagon Bipartisan bill would create NSC position to oversee 'Havana syndrome' response 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.