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Navy: Two local warships could be on the chopping block

Two of the vessels on the chopping block are homeported in Hampton Roads: USS Gunston Hall and USS Vicksburg.

NORFOLK, Va. — You could call it addition by subtraction.

Although the Navy plans to add nine warships to the fleet under its proposed Fiscal Year 2024 budget, the service also hopes to get rid of 11 active vessels.

The Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-based USS Gunston Hall is one of three Whidbey Island Class Amphibious dock landing ships that the Navy would early-retire next year, under the plan.

The Gunston Hall is 34 years into what was supposed to be a 40-year planned lifespan. The Navy tried to decommission the Gunston Hall last year, but Congress defeated that plan.

Also on the proposed chopping block is the Norfolk-based guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg, which is 31 years into its 35-year planned lifespan.

But in 2020, the Vicksburg just underwent a $175 million Service Life Extension Program overhaul.

The Navy tried to retire the Vicksburg last year, but Congress overruled that decision, too.

"For the cruisers and LSD's, the decision to seek this divestment was based on material condition, life remaining, cost and then time to upgrade, and then, the resultant net warfighting value," said Rear Admiral John Gumbleton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget. 

The Navy's budget documents do not indicate how much money leaders believe can be saved by getting rid of the ships, but Gumbleton said there would be other benefits.

"In addition to the time and money saved with this divestment, we will also free up over 1,500 sailors to support higher priority efforts," he said.

In the end, Congress will get the final say again this year on which ships stay and which -- if any -- go.

House Armed Services Committee Vice Chairman Rep. Rob Wittman (R, VA-01) made clear on Tuesday that he is against the cuts.

He said, in a statement to 13 News Now:

As our adversaries grow more aggressive, especially the Chinese Communist Party in the Indo-Pacific, we must not allow our military to fall behind by failing to provide the Department of Defense sufficient funding to meet the growing threats. Shrinking the size of our naval fleet and retiring eight ships prior to the end of their service life is not acceptable—particularly in the case of LPDs and cruisers that have undergone substantial maintenance work—and I will continue to work on the House Armed Services Committee to expand our naval fleet and match our defense budget to our national security strategy.”

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