The US will keep the Harry S. Truman at sea, according to Vice President Mike Pence. The Vice President was speaking to sailors on the Truman when he said, “we are keeping the best carrier in the world in the fight; we are not retiring the Truman”. This announcement comes shortly after Navy officials testified to Congress about why they wanted to retire the carrier.
Potentially retiring the Truman, currently only halfway through its lifespan, instead of refueling her, was first proposed in the Navy’s FY2020 budget request. Lawmakers, politicians, and pundits alike balked at the idea, as the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford has only recently brought the US back up to the legally required eleven aircraft carriers. With the retirement of the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) in 2012, the USN has spent the last seven years with only ten carriers.
The idea behind the retirement was to free up long term funds for the construction of future carriers, future refuelings of other ships, or any of the other myriad of destinations for large sums of money within the navy budget. Budget planners calculated that the retirement would save $30 billion over the next twenty-five years after retirement. Congress was expectedly shocked and combative. Senator Tim Kaine said in a statement that he “pushed hard against the Administration’s plans to mothball the Truman at the midpoint of its working life”.
This policy change will not be without consequence however. The Navy will have to find room in its budget for the continued operation of Truman, which is expected to cost $3.4 billion over the next five years. Carriers are massively expensive ships to operate, and nuclear ones are more expensive than those powered by conventional means. What will have to be sacrificed to ensure the Truman keeps running as unknown as of yet.
Carriers are the backbone of American naval might, but they are expensive to operate. In an era of modernization, new construction, and unending budgetary games, the right choice may not be so clear. Regardless, the Trump Administration has made its decision and it is up to the services to find a way to make that a reality.