Navy moving ahead on USS George Washington refueling

congressU.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine today applauded the U.S. Navy for moving forward to begin work on the refueling and complex overhaul of the aircraft carrier USS  George Washington – a top defense priority for the Virginia delegation.

“Navy sources confirm that a $182 million contract could be awarded soon to Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding, the only shipyard capable of building and refueling the world’s largest warships,”Defense News reported today. “The Navy had planned to cancel the ship’s mid-life, $3.5 billion refueling and complex overhaul and instead decommission the George Washington…”  but “congressional displeasure with the inactivation plan is widespread. Three of the four Congressional oversight committees have provided funding for the GW in their 2015 defense bills, and Senate appropriators are expected to follow suit in their markup, scheduled for July 17.”

“This is terrific news.  When we learned that the Pentagon was considering de-funding the overhaul of the George Washington, we convened the whole Virginia congressional delegation and worked together to put the money back into the budget,” Sen. Warner said. “It was an ‘all hands on deck moment,’ and this affirms Virginia’s strong partnership with the Navy. It’s also a great tribute to our shipbuilders in Hampton Roads to have this clear signal that the 11-carrier fleet remains a top Navy priority.”

“I am very pleased that the Navy is moving forward with the refueling and complex overhaul of the USS George Washington,” said Kaine, a member of the Armed Services Committee who spent months advocating funding for the CVN 73 refueling and complex overhaul in the Committee’s defense bill, which passed out of Committee in May. “It’s critical that we maintain the 11 aircraft carrier fleet to meet requirements around the globe. Supporting the 11 carrier statutory mandate has been one of our top priorities this year.  With more than 60,000 jobs linked to shipbuilding, Virginia leads the nation in supporting the industry’s ability to meet strategic needs and global presence.”

Senators Warner and Kaine have worked tirelessly to urge the administration and their congressional colleagues to fully fund the carrier.  Their first success was to persuade the administration that the carrier funding should be put back into the administration’s budget, and numerous administration officials subsequently testified that the carrier should be refueled.  The Senators also sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in January urging the administration to include funding. “No other American asset has the capability to launch kinetic strikes against terrorists, deter aggression of rogue nations, maintain the freedom of trade across the seas, and deliver humanitarian support to our allies in distress,” they wrote. And as the Chief of Naval Operations said last month, “When I look out into the future, we need at least 11 carriers.”

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