- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The U.S. Navy plans to shut down four of its active aircraft carriers in one of the worst-case scenarios presented to Congress by the service since the debate on budget cuts heated up this winter.

The Navy previously announced a delay in deploying the carrier USS Harry Truman to the Middle East, plus a stop in the refueling and overhauling of the nuclear-powered USS Abraham Lincoln and a delay in repairing the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

In an 11-page briefing sent to Congress and obtained by The Washington Times, the Navy said it will be forced to “shut down at various intervals” the USS John C. Stennis, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, USS Ronald Reagan and the Roosevelt.

The Navy’s active carrier fleet already has been reduced to 10 vessels because of the retirement of the USS Enterprise in November. Removing more carriers from action will leave the Navy unable to surge a large number of ships and strike fighters to a hot spot like the Persian Gulf.

Suspending all operations on four carriers means the Navy also would close four of its nine carrier air wings — the F-18s that project power overseas.

The Navy also is canceling, instead of delaying, the deployment of the USS Bataan amphibious assault ship.

SEE ALSO: Pentagon awash in pink slips, preparing 800,000 civilian furloughs

Scores of ships will not be repaired, the Navy’s version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet will not be tested, and at least 15 demonstrations by the Blue Angels precision flying team will be canceled across the country.

The Navy predicts that by October, units in the states will take a full nine months to get ready for deployments “due to maintenance and training curtailments.”

The four services, in testimony to Congress and in memos, are pressuring lawmakers to reach a deal to avert $46 billion in automatic cuts, known as sequestration, between March 1 and Sept. 30.

To underscore the impact on legislator’s home districts, the Navy briefing lists curtailed projects by regions and states, such as California, the Mid-Atlantic, the Pacific Northwest, Florida and Hawaii.

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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