Congress to Hagel: Keep 11 Aircraft Carriers

 USS Dwight D. Eisenhower about to resupply

Eleven members of Congress have signed a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asking that he make sure the Navy retains its current fleet-size of 11 aircraft carriers.

The group of lawmakers expressed concern about a fast-changing global threat environment and strongly cautioned against reducing the number of carriers in the Navy. The letter was written out of concern that ongoing budget deliberations regarding the upcoming 2015 defense budget submission might shrink the carrier fleet to 10.

The Pentagon is expected to present their budget request on March 4. Cuts across all services are expected to make up for sequestration reductions that will reduce the military’s budget by $500 billion over the next 10 years.

The letter emphasizes the need for 11 carriers for the purpose of forward presence and an ever-widening range of global missions.

"The Secretary of the Navy was right this past fall when he noted that a smaller aircraft carrier fleet would be unable to execute the missions described in the Defense Strategic Guidance," Rep. Randy Forbes, Chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, said in a statement.

The congressman went on to say that a cut to the 11-carrier fleet would limit the Navy’s ability to "deter aggression" and "respond to crises in a timely manner."

"It is unacceptable to pretend that the United States lives in anything less than an 11 carrier world given China’s growing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific, rising instability in the Middle East and the persistent danger of global terrorism," he said.

The letter was signed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R- Calif., Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Mike McIntyre, D.-N.C.

The lawmakers make the point that the demand upon the Navy for the technologies and capabilities provided by carriers is likely to keep increasing, therefore underscoring the need to maintain a fleet of 11.

"With the United States entering an era where our sea-services are likely to be called on to provide more presence, deterrence, and engagement throughout the Indo-Pacific littoral and across the globe, we believe now is the time to reinvest in our fleet, not look for ways to reduce its size and accept greater risk," the letter states.

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