Here's What You Need to Remember: “You can see by the strain of the deployments over the course of the last year that they are in high demand by all the combatant commanders, and sustaining that capability going forward in my view is critically important. I’m in support of the law which calls for the number of carriers in the United States.”
According to the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI), in order to meet a proposed $704 billion to $708 billion topline figures for President Joe Biden’s first Department of Defense budget, the Office of the Secretary of Defense is currently seeking to cut costs by reducing the carrier force.
One money-saving move could include revisiting a 2019 Trump administration proposal to take the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman out of inventory rather than conduct a mid-life refit and refueling, one legislative source told USNI. Another source has said that the entire shipbuilding budget was under scrutiny.
Earlier this week, House Armed Services seapower and projection forces ranking member Rep. Rob Wittman asked Adm. Phil Davidson, the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, if retiring the aircraft carrier would indeed be the right move.
“There is no capability that we have that can substitute for an aircraft carrier in my view,” the four-star admiral responded.
“You can see by the strain of the deployments over the course of the last year that they are in high demand by all the combatant commanders, and sustaining that capability going forward in my view is critically important. I’m in support of the law which calls for the number of carriers in the United States.”
In a statement, Wittman’s spokesman added: “These hypothetical concerns are prompted by the prior administration putting a range on aircraft carriers under which we could only reduce assets. Should we face a declining defense budget, that range will require the new administration to make some difficult decisions on force structure, and Congressman Wittman wants to ensure those decisions are made as wisely as possible should the need arise.”
Rep. Elaine Luria, a former Navy nuclear-qualified surface warfare officer, contended that the Pentagon shouldn’t consider reducing the carrier force and that defense spending should be further boosted.
“As we look to expand the U.S. Navy’s presence in response to malign Chinese activity and illegal maritime claims, the last thing we should consider is cuts to our carrier fleet,” she said in a statement.
“Now is not the time to cut defense spending. Our defense budget should grow at 3 to 5 percent above inflation to counter an increasingly threatening China. One cannot place a value on the unparalleled power projection and deterrence provided by our fleet of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and their embarked air wings. I urge the Biden administration to immediately drop this from consideration.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn. This article is being republished due to reader interest.