VodkaPundit

How Many Carriers Has the Pope?

Well, none. The United States however is supposed to maintain 11 of the big sticks — but nobody seems to know what will become of CVN-73 George Washington. Read:

Bottom line: Defense officials want to maintain the carrier fleet at 11. But whether it stays there or drops to 10 — a move that could ripple through the economy of Hampton Roads — depends on what signal the Pentagon gets from Congress about future spending levels.

What will a congressional “signal” look like? For the moment, no one seems to know.

The budget rollout began last week when Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel briefed reporters and followed up with visits to Fort Eustis in Newport News and Langley Air Force Base in Hampton.

He described the fiscal year 2015 budget and an accompanying document that projects spending five years into the future. Congress votes on the 2015 budget, not the five-year plan.

Hagel said the 2015 budget maintains the 11-carrier fleet, but notes that the USS George Washington is due at the Newport News shipyard in 2016 for a refueling and overhaul that would give it another 25 years of service.

The refueling can’t happen if budget cuts return in 2016 under the process known as sequestration, Hagel said. The Navy would have to retire the George Washington, not refuel it.

This is insanity. It costs nearly damn as much money to decommission a nuclear-powered carrier as it does to refuel it — removing and disposing of the spent fuel is a lengthy and expensive process. Here’s a case where Congress absolutely should find the money to keep that carrier operating, because it’s a fool’s decision to spend billions to retire a warship with 25 years of service left in her.