NORFOLK, Va. - There's once again talk about the Pentagon considering early-retirement for a Norfolk-based aircraft carrier, but Representative Elaine Luria says it would be a mistake.
USNI News first reported the possibility last week, citing a legislative source indicating the possibility of retiring the USS Harry S. Truman early to save money, rather than having the carrier undergo the traditional and expensive mid-life refueling and overhaul.
That article prompted a response from Representative Luria, who is the Vice-Chair of the House Committee on Armed Services, saying "now is not the time to cut defense spending."
“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," Luria said, who is also a Navy veteran.
"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.”
The idea of sending the USS Harry S. Truman to early retirement is not a new one. It was proposed in 2019 as a way to save money and fund other parts of the Pentagon's budget but faced immediate bipartisan opposition, especially from Virginia's congressional delegation.
The decision was reversed a short-time later by the Trump Administration, with then Vice President Mike Pence visiting the Truman in Norfolk to announce the decision to keep the carrier in active service.
So far the Pentagon has not commented about the upcoming budget plan.
Responding to a question from a USNI reporter about the Truman during a press briefing, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said it's "not my place to get ahead of the FY22 budget process. I mean, we're still, obviously, working through that and we'll respect the process that's led by OMB. So, I'm not going to get ahead of that at all."
The Truman was built by Newport News Shipbuilding and is scheduled to undergo the traditional refueling and overhaul there as well. The shipyard is currently wrapping up that work on the USS George Washington and preparing to welcome the USS John C. Stennis for the same process later this spring.
The Washington faced a similar uncertain fate during the Navy's FY2015 budget submissions which called for not funding the work. Congress ultimately rejected that proposal.