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Senators request funding for carriers

On Tuesday, Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine asked the chair and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense to protect funding for the Carrier Replacement Program during the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations process.

If a defense bill is not passed — which is probable — the Department of Defense will be funded temporarily via a Continuing Resolution. If that happens, the advance procurement funding for the program will continue at Fiscal Year 2016 levels. That reduction would cause delays in shipbuilding, jeopardize national security and threaten jobs in Hampton Roads. The senators are requesting that legislation for the CR include an exception for the Navy to move forward with the FY 2017 funding levels requested by President Obama.

The senators wrote: “The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier fleet is already stretched thin, and as a result, the Navy has required a waiver to have one fewer operational carrier than the 11 required by Congress. The current fleet of ten nuclear-powered aircraft carriers is being utilized at unprecedented rates because of a complex security environment and a delayed procurement of additional ships. This over-utilization is resulting in extended deployments, deferred maintenance, reduced operational availability, increased ownership costs and potentially shortened life spans for these strategic assets.”

The Department of Defense requested, and the subcommittee recommended, FY 2017 funding for the Carrier Replacement Program at $1.37 billion, about $500 million more than FY 2016 appropriations. The additional funds are necessary to meet procurement costs and ensure the timely delivery of the USS Enterprise (CVN-80), the third Ford-class aircraft carrier that will be constructed by Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Funding the program at FY 2016 levels would create delays that could place even greater strains on an already-stretched carrier fleet and could put local jobs at risk.

Keeping the Navy’s fleet of 11 carriers mission-ready has long been a bipartisan priority for the entire Virginia congressional delegation. We urge the subcommittee to heed the senators’ request.