Washington– Tuesday, Congressman Mike Conaway (TX-11) announced the introduction of H.R. 3329, legislation to increase the number of operational aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy fleet mandated by law from 11 to 12. This announcement comes after revelations during a House Armed Services Committee hearing that the Navy will not have the capabilities to provide a “continuous” aircraft carrier presence in both the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific until fiscal year 2021.
“When the United States first decided to conduct airstrikes against ISIS in 2014, the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) was in place within 30 hours. The carrier then remained the sole source of airstrikes for the first 54 days of the air campaign. Our carrier fleet today is being asked to deal with threats and crises all over the globe, from attacks in Iraq and Syria to humanitarian disaster relief in the Pacific. Russia has declared intentions to keep a permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean to counter NATO expansion, and China represents a continual threat to maritime stability in the South China Seas. Carrier deployments have increased to over 8 months on average, with some longer than ten months, causing shortened maintenance and training times. Our ships and our Sailors are feeling the consequences,” said Congressman Conaway.
“Since World War II, the U.S. Navy has depended on its aircraft carriers to provide forward presence and power projection. From the Korean War until 2000, the Joint Chiefs of Staff aimed to maintain a 15-carrier Navy. However, declining military budgets forced the Navy to reduce to 12 aircraft carriers by 1998, and to 11 aircraft carriers by 2007. Congress then set the number at 11 to prevent even further reductions. Today, there is a gap in carrier presence in the Persian Gulf as the Iran nuclear deal goes into effect, and Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley testified before a House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing today that gaps in presence will continue until 2021. Our adversaries threaten our freedom of the seas and doubt America’s military might. Now is the time to show strength and resolve to both our military members and to the international community by raising the number of operational aircraft carriers so that the U.S. Navy can meet its commitments at home and abroad.
“The USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) can be scheduled for completion in 2023, at which point the U.S. Navy will again have 12 operational aircraft carriers. The number of carriers mandated by Congress should match shipbuilding plans already in place in order to set the standard for the future. Aircraft carriers form the backbone of the Fleet. I am proud to sponsor legislation that will ensure our Navy has the ships it needs to do its job, and I encourage my colleagues to show their support by cosponsoring this bill.”