A Congressional subcommittee has offered legislation for the necessary funding to refuel the USS George Washington aircraft carrier that would allow the Navy to maintain its 11 carrier fleet.
The House Armed Services Committee's Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee proposed securing the funding for the carrier in the subcommittee's budget mark up released Tuesday.
The mark restores about $700 million in funding for long-lead items and preparations for the refueling and overhaul of the USS George Washington, a Congressional source said.
Refueling the George Washington will involving an extensive multi-year overhaul and maintenance upgrade that would ensure the aircraft carrier can fulfill the remaining 25-years of its expected 50-year service live.
Keep the George Washington operational would allow the Navy to maintain an 11-carrier fleet, something which has been a question mark in recent months due to budget concerns.
Navy leaders said the service had deferred the decision regarding whether to refuel the carrier until 2016, saying it would depend upon whether sequestration resumed in 2016. The Navy also said the service would temporarily lay up one half of its cruiser fleet -- 11 cruisers -- in order to make more funds available for the George Washington refueling.
If sequester returns in 2016, as is currently the law, then the Navy will not be able to maintain an 11-carrier fleet and will instead have 10 carriers, service leaders have said.
As a result, money for long-lead items and preparation for the USS George Washington had not been included in the fiscal year 2015 budget proposal. Refueling costs for the carrier, spanning up to four years or more, can range from $4 to $7 billion.
This is precisely the situation that the mark up is seeking to rectify, officials said. The mark-up language limits the "expenditure of funds authorized to be appropriated by the Act for the Office of the Secretary of Defense for fiscal year 2015 until the Secretary of Defense obligates funds to commence the planning and long lead time material procurement associated with the refueling and complex overhaul of the USS George Washington."
Current law requires that the Navy maintain an 11-carrier fleet. Chairman of the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., released a written statement explaining the subcommittee's decision to ensure an 11-carrier fleet.
"The aircraft carrier will remain the centerpiece of America's power projection capability for decades to come. The Seapower Subcommittee mark recognizes that reality and provides for an eleven carrier Fleet, rejecting the Administration's effort to reduce our carrier fleet to ten. The challenges of the coming decade require a robust carrier force and a versatile, diverse carrier air wing," said Forbes.
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