Lawmakers debate whether Norfolk aircraft carrier should retire in 2025

Harry S. Truman is scheduled for dismantling in 2024 (WYDaily Photo/ Courtesy of Newport News Shipbuilding)
Harry S. Truman is scheduled for dismantling in 2024 (Southside Daily Photo/ Courtesy of Newport News Shipbuilding)

On March 12, the Department of the Navy submitted its budget for the 2020 fiscal year which included forgoing the maintenance scheduled for the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in 2024.

According to the Navy’s budget report, the USS Truman is the only aircraft carrier proposed for dismantling and several members of Congress are opposed to the Navy’s suggestion of dismantling the aircraft carrier.

At the Senate Armed Services Seapower Committee, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said the following:

“The military has recently made a commitment to do a two carrier buy, so those new carriers are important, but I think a lot of us were puzzled about a suggestion that you would squander an asset at its midpoint when it might have another 25-30 years of active life post-refueling, so this is really the first opportunity we’ve had to kind of ask what’s the thinking behind that.”

Rep. Elaine Luria agrees.

“I believe that any budget the Executive Branch submits has to start with the things that are mandated by Congress to be fully funded,” said Luria at the hearing committee and added federal law mandates the Navy to have 11 aircraft carriers available.

It seems as though you’re coming before Congress and this could be some sort of shell game where you request to not fund the Truman, but you’re looking for unmanned surface vessels. I don’t think the President’s going to turn to the Secretary of Defense and say, ‘Where are my unmanned surface vessels?’ when a conflict breaks out. They’re going to turn and ask, ‘Where are my aircraft carriers?’”

Aircraft carriers have a 50-year lifespan and mid-way through the ship’s life, it goes through a process known as Refueling and Complex Overhaul or RCOH. This process is a comprehensive overall of the entire aircraft carrier, which means the USS Harry S. Truman would gutted and be outfitted with modern upgrades and repair work, in addition to refueling the ship’s two nuclear reactors, according to the Navy.

The shipyard? Newport News Shipbuilding.

“The president’s budget is the first step in the legislative process and we don’t want to speculate on the final outcome,” said Duane Bourne, spokesman for NNS, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.

Bourne noted the cancellation of the RCOH will impact the shipyard by decreasing the amount the company buys and orders for their various projects and cause inflation on several Navy shipbuilding and maintenance plans.

“We will stay fully engaged with our customer and Congress as the process unfolds to ensure there is a greater understanding of the negative impacts of the cancellation of the CVN 75 RCOH,” he said.

According to a August 2016 NNS announcement, the shipyard received $52 million from the Navy to modernize the Truman with “nuclear propulsion and complex modernization work.”

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.