House Armed Services Panel Wants 12 Aircraft Carriers

The Defense panel wants the Navy to maintain 12 instead of 11 aircraft carriers and acquire the vessels at a more rapid pace, committee aides said Tuesday.

The Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces calls for a new carrier every three years rather than the current pace of one every five years, under its version of the annual defense policy bill.

Moreover, the subcommittee would order the Navy to maintain 12 ships after 2023, aides told reporters. The Navy now has 10 aircraft carriers. The staff did not disclose the dollar amounts required for such a move, but funding levels will be revealed when the bill moves to the full committee.

The proposed version of the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act will include the plans, but quicker carrier procurement hinges on Congressional appropriators allocating the money every year to reach such a goal.

“Congress is sending a clear signal that [12 is] where we believe they need to drive to and the only real way to get to 12 and stay at 12 is to do it on three-year centers,” one aide said.

“We send that message and ideally the [Defense Department] would budget for it over the course of time.”

According to defense staff, the Navy will never realize a 12-aircraft carrier force structure without speeding up the rate of procurement.  

“It’s two years of advance procurement and six years of construction funding,” an aide said of each carrier. “Ultimately it’s up to the bucks that determine whether we’re actually moving forward to three-year centers or not.”

The Navy earlier this month accepted delivery of the $12.9 billion USS Gerald R. Ford, the first in a new class of supercarriers. The vessel took 12 years of construction and testing to complete.

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