What About the USS George Washington?

Tom Roberson

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's pledge that the Obama Administration is committed to keeping all 11 aircraft carriers addresses the situation of replacing the USS Enterprise with the USS Gerald R. Ford, but ignores the Navy's plan to retire the USS George Washington in 2020 by eliminating its mid-life refueling overhaul.

As the Obama Administration continues squeezing the defense budget to expand entitlement spending, there has been a real fear among conservative hawks that America's military is being hollowed out and set up as a paper tiger. America's ability to project its power overseas is embodied in its fleet of 11 aircraft carriers stationed at strategic points across the globe. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined with commitments in Asia and the Middle East, have stretched our carrier fleet's ability to maintain an increased deployment tempo,which it has managed in superb fashion. The idea of scaling back this fleet is unthinkable as the world situation becomes more dangerous with fanatical Islamic radicals in Iran threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz and China continues its rise in Asia.

Defense Secretary Panetta assured sailors aboard the USS Enterprise that he is committed to keeping an 11-carrier fleet, explaining that there would be a 33-month gap between the decommissioning of the Enterprise and introduction of its successor, the USS Gerald R. Ford. It was reported back in October that the Navy was seriously considering cancellation of the scheduled three-year mid-life refueling overhaul of the USS George Washington, allowing it to be decommissioned around 2020 when its current nuclear fuel store expires. Panetta didn't address plans for the Washington, but following this plan would allow him to credibly claim commitment to an 11-carrier force while setting the stage for the GW's retirement.

Aircraft carriers are incredibly complex and expensive weapons systems built with an intended 50-year lifespan. They undergo a scheduled three-year mid-life refueling overhaul to extend their useful lifespan, and could conceivably undergo a second refueling overhaul to add another 25 years of use. Their ability to allow the United States to overtly project its power into the far corners of the globe is unmatched by any other weapons system possessed by our military.

Given President Obama's proclivity to apologizing for American exceptionalism and reluctance to support continued engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is entirely conceivable that our carrier force could be reduced to achieve what might possibly be portrayed as unavoidable cost cuts. America's carrier force will be reduced to 10 during the 33-month gap between the Enterprise's retirement and the Ford's introduction to the fleet. There is a real fear that this reduction will be made permanent unless reports of the Navy's intention to retire the Washington early are not addressed.

Tom Roberson (mailto:trobe9@gmail.com) is an independent conservative blogging at www.tomroberson.wordpress.com http://www.tomroberson.wordpress.com/ and doing his small part to save his country. He'd love to hear from you.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's pledge that the Obama Administration is committed to keeping all 11 aircraft carriers addresses the situation of replacing the USS Enterprise with the USS Gerald R. Ford, but ignores the Navy's plan to retire the USS George Washington in 2020 by eliminating its mid-life refueling overhaul.

As the Obama Administration continues squeezing the defense budget to expand entitlement spending, there has been a real fear among conservative hawks that America's military is being hollowed out and set up as a paper tiger. America's ability to project its power overseas is embodied in its fleet of 11 aircraft carriers stationed at strategic points across the globe. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined with commitments in Asia and the Middle East, have stretched our carrier fleet's ability to maintain an increased deployment tempo,which it has managed in superb fashion. The idea of scaling back this fleet is unthinkable as the world situation becomes more dangerous with fanatical Islamic radicals in Iran threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz and China continues its rise in Asia.

Defense Secretary Panetta assured sailors aboard the USS Enterprise that he is committed to keeping an 11-carrier fleet, explaining that there would be a 33-month gap between the decommissioning of the Enterprise and introduction of its successor, the USS Gerald R. Ford. It was reported back in October that the Navy was seriously considering cancellation of the scheduled three-year mid-life refueling overhaul of the USS George Washington, allowing it to be decommissioned around 2020 when its current nuclear fuel store expires. Panetta didn't address plans for the Washington, but following this plan would allow him to credibly claim commitment to an 11-carrier force while setting the stage for the GW's retirement.

Aircraft carriers are incredibly complex and expensive weapons systems built with an intended 50-year lifespan. They undergo a scheduled three-year mid-life refueling overhaul to extend their useful lifespan, and could conceivably undergo a second refueling overhaul to add another 25 years of use. Their ability to allow the United States to overtly project its power into the far corners of the globe is unmatched by any other weapons system possessed by our military.

Given President Obama's proclivity to apologizing for American exceptionalism and reluctance to support continued engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is entirely conceivable that our carrier force could be reduced to achieve what might possibly be portrayed as unavoidable cost cuts. America's carrier force will be reduced to 10 during the 33-month gap between the Enterprise's retirement and the Ford's introduction to the fleet. There is a real fear that this reduction will be made permanent unless reports of the Navy's intention to retire the Washington early are not addressed.

Tom Roberson (mailto:trobe9@gmail.com) is an independent conservative blogging at www.tomroberson.wordpress.com http://www.tomroberson.wordpress.com/ and doing his small part to save his country. He'd love to hear from you.