The Pentagon has tried twice this year to mothball one of its aircraft carriers, but it keeps getting shut down
An icon in the shape of an angle pointing down. The USS Harry S. Truman. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford
During recent budget negotiations, the Pentagon again tried to retire the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman decades ahead of schedule, Defense News reported on Monday.
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget told the Pentagon that the Navy’s budget submission did not include refueling the Truman or maintaining its air wing and directed it to come back with a budget that restored funding to both the carrier and the air wing.
The Pentagon reportedly complied, but this is the second time this year that it has tried to decommission the Truman early, after making the same pitch in March in its budget proposal for the 2020 fiscal year.
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The Pentagon has tried twice in the past year to push a plan that would retire the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman decades early and cut its air wing.
Last month, amid fiscal year 2021 budget negotiations between the Department of Defense and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, the Pentagon pushed a plan to retire the flattop early rather than move forward with plans for its midlife refueling in fiscal year 2024 and continued service after that.
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“The Navy’s [budget submission] does not refuel the USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN-75) or maintain its associated air wing,” an OMB memo obtained by Defense News said.
Without the refueling and complex overhaul, during which the carrier’s nuclear reactor is refueled, the Truman’s 50-year hull life would be cut in half.
The OMB response to the Pentagon’s proposed budget instructs the Department of Defense to provide a carrier-refueling plan for the next 30 years that “includes the USS HARRY S. TRUMAN.” The Pentagon complied and restored funding for both the carrier and its air wing.
The Pentagon also proposed major cuts to the size of the fleet overall through early decommissioning of a handful of littoral combat ships and dock landing ships and by defunding the construction of a number of destroyers. The OMB instructed the Pentagon to present a plan consistent with ambitions for a 355-ship Navy, according to Defense News.
The recent negotiations mark the second time this year the Navy has tried to decommission the Truman ahead of schedule.
“We made the difficult decision to retire CVN 75 (USS Harry S. Truman) in lieu of its previously funded refueling complex overhaul that was scheduled to occur in FY 2024,” the Navy said in an overview of the fiscal year 2020 budget released in March.
The decision was apparently made to free up funds for the development of unmanned “attritable” systems — ones that are inexpensive, reusable, and dispensable — that would better prepare the Navy to take on near-peer threats.
The plan to retire the Truman early faced pushback from Congress, and in April, the White House publicly reversed course on the budget plans, with Vice President Mike Pence announcing aboard the carrier that “the USS Harry S. Truman is going to be giving ’em hell for many more years to come.”
The next day, President Donald Trump tweeted that he was “overriding the Decommission Order of the magnificent aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman,” effectively reversing his own administration’s plan.
***This article is updated in 2019