Reuters – Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert told reporters late on Monday that the Navy would have no choice but to curtail funding for a planned refueling of the nuclear-powered USS George Washington aircraft carrier if sharp cuts in military spending remained in effect for 2016 and beyond.
Such a decision, he said, would have a big impact on the shipbuilding industrial base, noting that the refueling involved several hundred thousand man-days of work, and could affect the ability of carrier building Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc to build the next aircraft carrier.
Huntington Ingalls, General Dynamics Corp, Lockheed, Boeing and other weapons makers are each lobbying to maintain or increase funding for their programs, warning that big cutbacks will be especially hard on smaller suppliers.
Greenert said the Navy had included money in the fiscal 2015 budget to get the carrier ready for de-fueling beginning in September 2016, something that will have to happen regardless whether the ship is ultimately retired or refueled.
If Congress blocked those plans - which the Navy estimates would save $7 billion - the Navy would be forced to reduce its orders of submarines and destroyers instead, he said, noting that it would be hard to find big enough cuts elsewhere.
Greenert said the Navy still had a requirement for 11 carriers, but had been forced to make tough choices in its fiscal 2015 budget as it tried to balance competing priorities, including the need to start work on a replacement for the Ohio-class submarines that now carry nuclear weapons.
Greenert is due to testify before the House Armed Services Committee along with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos on Wednesday.