NORFOLK, Va. — After months of uncertainty, the Vice President of the United States made the fate of USS Harry S. Truman clear.
"We are not retiring the Truman!" Mike Pence said aboard the aircraft carrier on Tuesday.
The Vice President was visiting Naval Station Norfolk, getting a tour of the Truman and delivering formal remarks to ship officers and crew members.
The 2020 Defense budget originally called for the ship to be retired 25 years early, saying it would create budgetary flexibility to develop newly manned and unmanned weapons systems and save $4 billion in the process.
The proposal had faced harsh criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike, with lawmakers holding hearings with military leaders to question its justification.
Before the crew members of the Truman, Vice President Pence said he was relaying a message from President Trump when he stated the ship will not be retired early.
"The USS Harry S. Truman is going to be giving them hell for many more years to come!" Pence exclaimed to applause.
The change, of course, is good news for Hampton Roads' largest private employer, Newport News Shipbuilding. The business could have lost out on the 48-month $4 billion refuelings and overhaul contract for the Truman beginning in 2024.
"All the constituencies that are going to be involved in the Truman refueling are going to be excited. They're going to be happy, they're going to be pleased this issue has finally been put to bed," said Tidewater Community College Business Professor Peter Shaw. "Three thousand employees are going to be involved, $4 billion project. Several hundred suppliers across many states. The local businesses who service the shipyard personnel are going to be thrilled. So, there is definitely great news in the community."
Christopher Newport University Political Science Professor Quentin Kidd said this announcement will help Pence and his boss, politically.
"Thousands of people in Hampton Roads particularly are going to breathe a sigh of relief," he said. "It allows the administration in the form of the vice president to demonstrate a commitment to the military and a commitment to military personnel. And so for a lot of I think this particular announcement is good for the vice president and good for the president."
Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Congress members Elaine Luria and Rob Wittman released statements about Pence's announcement.
“As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have pushed hard against the Administration’s plans to mothball the Truman at the midpoint of its working life. I am gratified that the Administration listened and is now committed to the refueling. This is the right call for our national security.”
"It appears the Trump administration's plan to retire the USS Truman decades ahead of schedule was 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."
Luria made the following statement:
“I’m glad that the administration reversed itself because this would have been an awful decision for Hampton Roads and America. As someone who served two years on the USS Harry S. Truman, I have firsthand knowledge of its value and ability to bring sustained power anywhere on Earth.”
Rob Wittman said:
“This is the right choice and I am glad to see the administration make this correction. I have been adamant since the beginning that retiring the USS Truman halfway through its expected service life would be strategically and fiscally irresponsible. Aircraft carriers are the nation’s preeminent power projection platform and the cornerstone of the US Navy. Completing the USS Truman's Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) is critical to reaching our 12-carrier requirement.
“As Ranking Member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, I will continue fighting to keep the USS Truman’s RCOH on schedule and properly funded. We must continue to make the investments now, not only to maximize naval power as a deterrent force but also to combat and defeat our adversaries if conflict is required.”
Following his remarks, Pence participated in a roundtable discussion with local business leaders to discuss the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement.
Pence's visit comes less than a week after his wife, Karen Pence visited Naval Station Norfolk.
During her visit, the Second Lady made remarks to military spouses and recognized the sacrifices made by them. She said they are the backbone of the U.S. military and contribute directly to our military readiness.
Pence also visited the region in February, when he came to Coast Guard Station Portsmouth to discuss border security.