By BEN FREEMAN
One of the POGO/Taxpayers for Common Sense deficit reduction proposals--to reduce the Navy's aircraft carrier groups--may be coming to fruition.
Last week, the Navy announced that it would effectively cut a carrier strike group (CSG), which usually consist of an aircraft carrier, as many as 70 aircraft, and an escort fleet of a few cruisers, destroyers, and frigates. According to the announcement, CSG-7 has been deactivated and its supercarrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, has been reassigned to another group—CSG-9. The Ronald Reagan is replacing CSG-9’s current supercarrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, which will undergo refueling and complex overhaul beginning in August 2012.
This move leaves a total of nine operational carrier strike groups. “Even though the Navy will keep all 11 carriers in the fleet, which will drop to 10 ships once the USS Enterprise retires, it will likely maintain the nine carrier group construct for the long term,” according to Carlo Munoz of AOL Defense.
This will lead to significant savings for the Navy. According to a Navy expert at Information Dissemination:
This simple organizational move means the Navy doesn't have to support an extra air wing for awhile, and limits the total F-18 fighter shortfall so the Navy doesn't have to buy that extra wing either. The Navy is also avoiding the costs of supporting the personnel of the extra air wing, and this move also buys extra time for working out problems with the F-35C.
While the savings from this move will be substantial, the cost to military supremacy is nominal. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO): “Recent experience suggests that the Navy mobilizes 5 to 7 carriers to fight a major war,” and even when the Enterprise retires and the Navy is left with 10 carriers, the Navy would still be able to “provide a force of at least 5 or 6 carriers within 90 days to fight such a war.” And, the CBO indicates additional carriers could be brought into the conflict after 90 days, if necessary.
With defense budget cuts a distinct possibility in the near future, every branch of the military should be searching for spending cuts that do not radically undermine operational effectiveness—precisely what the Navy has done here. Taxpayers should applaud this effort.
Ben Freeman is POGO’s National Security Fellow.
Image of the USS Abraham Lincoln: Official U.S. Navy Imagery.