House panel seeks to prevent Trump from retiring aircraft carrier early

House panel seeks to prevent Trump from retiring aircraft carrier early
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The House Armed Services Committee’s version of the annual defense policy bill would block funding for the Navy to go below 11 aircraft carriers after the Trump administration flirted with retiring a carrier early.

“That really just reiterates current law that you need to maintain 11 carriers and [the] Truman [aircraft carrier] will be part of that,” a committee staffer told reporters Monday.

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In its initial budget request for fiscal 2020, the Trump administration proposed retiring the USS Harry S. Truman early so that money meant for a costly refueling of the nuclear-powered carrier could instead be used to fund new technologies such as drone ships.

But the proposal elicited fierce bipartisan backlash, and lawmakers were expected to ignore it.

In late April while visiting the Truman, Vice President Pence announced the administration was reversing course and scrapping its plans to retire the carrier.

On Monday, House Armed Services Committee staffers confirmed the seapower subcommittee’s portion of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes money to refuel the Truman.

A committee staffer said the panel saw the choice between an aircraft carrier and unmanned ships as a “false choice.”

The bill would also repeal a cost cap that has been imposed on building aircraft carriers since 2007, staffers said.

The cap, which has fluctuated over the years, has done “nothing to contain costs,” a staffer said. Instead, the cap has caused the Navy to do “stupid stuff” like delaying building capabilities the carriers need to eventually have, the staffer added. For example, the USS John F. Kennedy, a Ford-class carrier under construction, will not be able to deploy with F-35 fighter jets, the staffer said.

“All it has done is driven inefficiencies within the Navy,” the staffer said of the cost cap.

In all, the seapower subcommittee’s portion of the bill would fund 11 new ships, including three Virginia-class submarines, three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, one guided-missile frigate, one Amphibious Transport Dock ship, one T-AO 205 oiler and two T-ATS towing, salvage and rescue ships.