The Navy is denying speculation that it has delayed the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman to the Middle East in order to create “drama” over defense spending cuts.
“The Navy did not make this decision to make a point,” Adm. John Kirby, the service’s chief of information, said Tuesday in an op-ed article.
“Without a spending bill this year and no flexibility to supplement our operating accounts, those options were pretty simple: Either send the Truman on time and maintain a dual-carrier presence in the Gulf region through this year and not much longer; find some other non-Navy way to source the requirement; or delay the Truman’s departure and deploy it some months later under a single-carrier plan we could safely support well into 2015,” Adm. Kirby said in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot article.
In a Feb. 12 letter to Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, said: “I am concerned that these decisions are being made for the purpose of adding drama to the sequestration debate, given the continuation of other programs that are worthy of cost-cuts or even elimination.”
The Pentagon faces reducing its budget by $500 billion over the next decade under an automatic measure known as sequestration, which is set to begin Friday.
Adm. Kirby said that maintaining two carriers in the Middle East had become increasingly difficult long before there was any uncertainty about the budget. He noted that the retirement of the USS enterprise in November and the four-year overhaul of the USS Abraham Lincoln had reduced the 11-carrier fleet to nine.
“Were it not for [Defense] Secretary [Leon E.] Panetta’s decision to delay the Truman and relieve us from having to keep two aircraft carriers in the Middle East, the Navy would have been unable to keep combat-ready forces there on anything resembling a stable schedule much past the end of this summer,” the admiral wrote.
“Look, military leaders don’t make decisions to make a point. We don’t do drama. And we don’t involve ourselves in political debates. We provide options to civilian leaders that help them better protect and defend Americans. And that’s exactly what delaying the Truman allows us all to do,” Adm. Kirby wrote.