Navy's Top Admiral Has No Apologies Over Carrier Lincoln's Extra-Long Deployment

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USS Abraham Lincoln arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam as part of an around-the-world deployment that includes a homeport shift to San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo/Aja B. Jackson)

As families wait for a Navy aircraft carrier to arrive at its new California homeport after nearly 10 months at sea, the service's top officer simply said: That's sometimes how it goes.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday gave a glimpse on Tuesday into some of the decisions that led the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to face multiple deployment extensions while operating in the Middle East.

"She was only supposed to be out there for seven months," Gilday said of the Lincoln. "There were a number of decisions that were made to extend her or to not extend her. ... I couldn't get another carrier behind her very quickly. I couldn't accelerate other carriers."

Ultimately though, "that's sometimes how it goes," Gilday added from the Surface Navy Association's annual symposium.

"I don't make any apologies for that," the CNO said. "... I had a better solution, I would've offered it."

The carrier deployed in April 2019. Last week, the ship arrived in Hawaii before making its final trek to San Diego.

During the deployment, some Navy families told Military.com the multiple extensions caused them to lose faith in the Navy. It wasn't just tensions in the Middle East that kept the Lincoln deployed, but maintenance problems with the flattop that was supposed to replace it.

Related: Carrier Lincoln Is Finally Headed Home. But Families Say the Navy Broke Trust

The Navy's maintenance backlogs have caught the attention of lawmakers and a government watchdog agency. In 2018, a member of the Government Accountability Office told lawmakers the Navy maintenance delays had cost the service more than 27,000 days of ship and submarine availability over a six-year period.

When the Lincoln was extended in part because the Navy was struggling to fix a maintenance problem on the carrier Truman, one Navy family member said it appeared as though the service was "scrambling."

Adding to the stress for many was a cross-country move for families while the Lincoln was deployed, since its homeport was moving from Virginia to San Diego.

Gilday said the Navy continues to look at how the services maintains and trains to spot and fix any inefficiencies.

"We may find ways to be in maybe more creatively employ our forces," he said. "But at the same time, I need to make sure that we have a predictable model for families and sailors."

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Read More: After Extended Deployment, the USS Abraham Lincoln Turns Toward Home

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