The Navy should reconsider the proposed cancellation of ship repairs in Hampton Roads and elsewhere or risk starting a chain reaction that will damage future combat readiness, a group of congressmen said Monday.
In a letter to Navy leaders, the group pleaded for the Navy to hold off issuing an order on Feb. 15 to cancel the work. The bipartisan letter was signed by nine House members, including Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Virginia Beach, and Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, D-Newport News.
The Navy last month announced plans to cancel maintenance on 23 ships if Congress can't resolve the budget crisis. Ten ships are based Norfolk and another 10 are in San Diego. The other three are homeported in New London, Conn.; Mayport, Fla.; and Bremerton, Wash.
Canceling the work would save more than $600 million, the Navy estimates.
"The schedule for maintenance, training and deployment is set well in advance and if a maintenance period is missed, it will have a domino effect on each successive availability," the letter states. Delaying work will produce "a legacy of combat mission degradation for years to come."
The letter was sent to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations. It was signed by three Republicans and six Democrats.
In Norfolk, canceling the maintenance work would affect the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp and the following eight ships: USS Oscar Austin, USS Porter, USS Laboon, USS Forest Sherman, USS McFaul, USS Winston Churchill, USS Jason Dunham and USS Barry.
On the West Coast, the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis would be among the affected ships.
In addition to combat readiness, the lawmakers said they feared the impact on private-sector shipyards. If the work is canceled, those yards "will suffer layoffs potentially numbering in the thousands," the letter states.