U.S. Carrier Fleet To Remain Intact
By: John Hampton
The Obama administration has decided to maintain the number of aircraft carrier strike groups in the U.S. fleet at eleven. It was thought that impending Department of Defense budget cuts would necessitate a reduction in the fleet by as many as one or two strike groups.
Secretary of Defense Panetta made the announcement to a group of about 1700 sailors aboard the USS Enterprise. The Enterprise is currently conducting training operations off the coast of Georgia in preparation for an upcoming deployment to the Persian Gulf.
Last month President Obama signed legislation which was in part, designed to impose new and more stringent sanctions against Iran and its central bank. The sanctions however, will not be immediately implemented. The legislation includes a six month window that allows the administration to study issues of supply and demand and potential increases to the cost of crude oil, if the sanctions were to be fully implemented.
In response, Iran threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz if the new sanctions were implemented. The Strait of Hormuz is a major transit point for world oil supplies. Iran has also told the U.S. not to send any more carriers into the Persian Gulf. On January 22nd the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, escorted by the guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George and two destroyers, passed through the Strait of Hormuz without incident. The Lincoln was conducting a routine transit of the strait while performing maritime security operations.
Although Defense Department budget cuts must be made (because of the failure of the “Super Committee”), at least the Obama administration understands the need to maintain a show of superior strength in a very dangerous area of the world.
Referring back to the Sec Def’s address to the crew of the Enterprise – “That’s what this carrier is all about,” said Panetta. “That’s the reason we maintain a presence in the Middle East … We want them to know that we are fully prepared to deal with any contingency and it’s better for them to try to deal with us through diplomacy.”
Panetta later told reporters that budget cuts would have to come from other areas of the Defense Department budget. He also said, “Our view is that the carriers, because of their presence, because of the power they represent, are a very important part of our ability to maintain power projection both in the Pacific and in the Middle East.”
Secretary Panetta did give an indication where some of the budget cutting would occur. He said that he would reduce the number of Army brigades based in Europe from four to two. In addition, the Army and Marine Corps are preparing for substantial troop cuts.
The current list of active U.S. aircraft carriers includes: The Enterprise, The Nimitz, The Dwight D Eisenhower, The Carl Vinson, The Theodore Roosevelt, The Abraham Lincoln, The George Washington, The John C Stennis, The Harry S Truman, The Ronald Reagan and The George HW Bush.
With fifty years of service, the Enterprise is not only the oldest carrier, she is also the oldest ship in the entire fleet. Her upcoming deployment will be her 22nd and final tour of duty.
John Hampton lives in Tehachapi CA and is quite concerned about the policies and motives of the current Administration. He believes in a system that holds our freedoms sacred, promotes personal responsibility, prudence and high moral standards.