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Navy delays aircraft carrier deployment to Middle East

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The Navy has delayed the Middle East deployment of aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman due to budget concerns, defense officials said Wednesday.

The aircraft carrier was scheduled to sail out Friday for an eight-month deployment to the Persian Gulf.

"Facing budget uncertainty — including a continuing resolution and the looming potential for across-the-board sequestration cuts — the U.S. Navy made this request to the secretary [of defense] and he approved," according to a statement from Pentagon press secretary George Little.

"This prudent decision enables the U.S. Navy to maintain these ships to deploy on short notice in the event they are needed to respond to national security contingencies," Mr. Little said.

"The United States will continue to maintain a robust military presence in the [U.S. Central Command] region, including the current carrier presence and a mix of other assets, to fulfill enduring commitments to our partners. The U.S. military continues to stand ready to respond to any contingency and to confront any threat in the region."

Since 2010, the Navy has maintained a two-carrier presence in the Middle East. Currently, the USS John C. Stennis is the only carrier in the region.

A defense official told The Washington Times that the carrier presence in the Middle East will now drop to one, but the Truman will remain capable of deploying on short notice if a second carrier is needed in the region or anywhere else.

In addition, the official said, the Stennis will still leave the region in late March and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower will head to the region in late February as scheduled. The USS Nimitz will relieve the Eisenhower, and the Truman will eventually relieve the Nimitz.

The budget crisis would not have affected the Truman's deployment, or its relief, but would have affected the next ship out, said the defense official.

Keeping the Truman at home would extend the Navy's ability to provide coverage for the region over a longer period of time, the official said.

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