WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Rear Admiral Randy Crites said today, retiring the Norfolk-based aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman would give the Navy the budgetary flexibility to develop needed new cutting-edge manned and unmanned weapons systems.
"We're serious about this," he said. "We are focused on some of these future capabilities that we need to get and we need to get after it today."
The Pentagon's 2020 budget includes a plan to not refuel the 21-year-old aircraft carrier as planned in 2024, and having the ship operate until its nuclear fuel is spent--sometime in the mid-2020s, sending it to retirement about a quarter-century earlier than originally designed.
Virginia lawmakers have harshly criticized the idea.
First District Congressman Rob Wittman said he is "perplexed' by it.
Second District Congresswoman Elaine Luria said, "I would oppose such an action."
Senator Tim Kaine initially called the move "mind-boggling," but said last week he believes in his gut that an ongoing Navy study will conclude the Truman is necessary, and that the decision is "reversible."
Senator Mark Warner said, "I will continue to urge the Navy to reassess this decision given our national security imperatives."
Crites, when asked what the Navy would do if Congress disallows the Truman to be retired, seemed to indicate that his branch does not have a Plan B.
"Uh, well, obviously if we weren't allowed to retire the Truman, we would have to identify other sources to restore it," he said. "I don't want to get into a what-if game. we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. I'll leave it at that."
It would be a multi-billion-dollar blow to Hampton Roads' largest private employer, Newport News Shipbuilding.
The $718.3 billion 2020 budget, includes a 3.1 percent pay hike for the troops, three new Arleigh Burke Class guided missile destroyers and three new Virginia Class submarines.