Retirement of Navy cruisers meets resistance, congress questioning motive

The Navy claims it wants to save $4.7 billion by retiring eleven guided missile cruisers for up to ten years. Afterwards, they will modernize them and bring them back into service.

WVEC reported that House Seapower Subcommittee Chairman Randy Forbes of Virginia’s Fourth district is skeptical that the cruisers, which play a vital role in a carrier strike group, would ever actually be brought back.

“I have said all along I don’t think the plan is to modernize them, it’s to euthanize them,” Forbes said in an interview. “And this is just a polite way to put them to rest for ten years and never bring them back out. But, it’s a very strategically dangerous thing for the United States Navy to do.”

The face-off is between the U.S. Navy and Congress. Although the Navy states it is planning to gradually bring the cruisers back into service starting in 2019, Congress is worried that the Pentagon will cut the budget and permanently reduce the naval force.

According to Defense News, Rear Admiral Thomas Rowden brings up another growing concern. “So the question is, who is going to fill the air defense commander void?” asked the Navy’s Director of Surface Warfare.

Under the proposed modernization plan, Rowden said, the reduction to 11 active cruisers means a destroyer would fill the secondary role. But they are somewhat limited in taking on that mission.

“We have done air defense with missile destroyers before,” Rowden said. “And clearly, we could take our destroyers and to a certain extent increase the level of expertise on those ships by putting a captain in charge. But the density of the ship, the ability to add staff to the ship, and the reduced command, control and communications equipment on our destroyers really makes them not as an optimal air defense commander ship as our cruisers.”

Concern is widespread amongst Capitol Hill. “They wanted to get rid of them (the cruisers), then overnight they came up with this plan,” said one staffer, who noted that the Navy provided details on the plan just before the 2015 defense bill markups began, making it difficult or impossible to incorporate its implications

“The track record on a variety of issues is not great,” complained the staffer of the Navy.

“You can’t guarantee that Navy leaders won’t look at that (inactivated) ship downstream and think ‘I don’t want to pay to bring that ship back in service,’ ” said another congressional staffer. “That ship will look old to them by then.”

File:US Navy 960224-N-3717S-008 U.S. Navy^rsquo,s Ticonderoga Class Cruiser USS San Jacinto executes a high-speed break away following replenishment at sea (RAS).jpg


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