The U.S. Navy will delay the refueling of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) for an unknown period because of the uncertain fiscal environment due to the ongoing legislative struggle, the service told Congress in a Friday message obtained by USNI News.
Lincoln was scheduled to be moved to Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Newport News Shipyard later this month to begin the 4-year refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) of the ship.
“This delay is due to uncertainty in the Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations bill, both in the timing and funding level available for the first full year of the contract,” the message said.
“CVN-72 will remain at Norfolk Naval Base where the ships force personnel will continue to conduct routine maintenance until sufficient funding is received for the initial execution of the RCOH.”
Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower subcommittee released a statement denouncing the need for decision.
Forbes called the delay, “another example of how these reckless and irresponsible defense cuts in Washington will have a long-term impact on the Navy’s ability to perform its missions. Not only will the Lincoln be delayed in returning to the Fleet, but this decision will also affect the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) defueling, the USS George Washington (CVN-73) RCOH, and future carrier readiness.”
The move by the navy is the second this week involving funding for carriers. On Wednesday it announced it would delay the deployment of the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) to the Middle East do to the ongoing budget strife bringing the total number of carriers in U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) to one until funding normalizes.
“Canceling and deferring maintenance creates a significant backlog of deferred maintenance and affects future year schedules and cost, as well as future readiness,” said Lt. Courtney Hillson, a Navy spokesperson.
“The fiscal uncertainty created by not having an appropriations bill — and the measures we are forced to take as a result, place significant stress on an already strained force and undermines the stability of a fragile industrial base.”
The delay in the RCOH for the Lincoln translates into a carrier that will be undeployable for the foreseeable future. It is ‘not possible to restore,’ the carrier to active service without the $3.3 billion overhaul, Hillson said.
Under the current Continuing Resolution (CR), the Navy is $1.5 billion short on its accounts. Combined with coming sequestration in March the number grows to $9 billon for FY 2013, according to Navy documents.
The Navy had budgeted $92 million for the Lincoln refueling in its FY 2012 budget.
Each Nimitz-class carrier undergoes a refueling and complete overhaul at the halfway point in its 50-year service life.
HII said the company is, “disappointed with this turn of events,” and said the delay, “is the direct result of the lack of a defense appropriations bill,” HII spokesperson Christie Miller said in a statement.
“This is not a cancellation of the Lincoln’s RCOH at Newport News Shipbuilding,” Miller said.
“We intend to continue our efforts on the ship at the Navy base in Norfolk and will work to make as much progress as possible, as efficiently as possible, prior to its arrival.”