According to www.dailypress.com, a draft Pentagon blueprint renews a plan to shrink the Navy's fleet of aircraft carriers, barely a month after Congress blocked the move.
Excerpts of the draft Quadrennial Defense Review, conducted every four years to guide military strategy, call for a fleet of 11 aircraft carriers - or one fewer than exist today. The Navy pushed hard last year to reduce the fleet by mothballing the USS John F. Kennedy, based in Mayport, Fla. But Congress saved the carrier last month by mandating a 12-carrier fleet in the final version of a defense authorization bill
Hampton Roads is now home to five aircraft carriers
- each of which sustains thousands of jobs for the region's economy.
The Norfolk-based USS George Washington is slated to move to Japan to replace the retiring USS Kitty Hawk in 2008. Whether Norfolk gets a replacement for the Washington could depend on whether the Kennedy - Florida's only carrier - is mothballed.
The Pentagon document describes the proposed reduction as part of a strategy that would allow the Navy to build a larger overall fleet, make ships more affordable, and provide long-sought stability to the beleaguered shipbuilding industry. And it calls for doubling procurement of submarines-from one per year to two-by 2012 and reducing costs to $2 billion per sub. The Navy has long sought to increase submarine production and cut costs, only to see costs soar and production plans postponed.
The release of the defense review next month seems sure to trigger a fresh battle over the fate of the Kennedy.
The report also renews a Navy goal, voiced occasionally in recent years, to place a greater emphasis on threats in the Pacific. That talk has spurred local concerns that some Atlantic ships could be relocated westward.