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US House panel to Navy: Don’t mothball 3 Hampton Roads warships

USS Vicksburg (Lt. j. g. Victoria Einbinder/US Navy)
June 11, 2022

The House Armed Services Committee is blocking the Navy’s plans to mothball the Norfolk-based cruiser USS Vicksburg, at the urging of Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Virginia Beach.

The committee’s mark-up of the National Defense Authorization Act — the military budget — also accepted Luria’s argument to reject the idling of four dock landing ships, including Little Creek-based USS Gunston Hall, currently deployed with the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group in Europe, and USS Tortuga.

The committee’s revisions to the budget also includes funding for as many as 15 destroyers over the next five years.

The Vicksburg and Tortuga are in the BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair yard, where modernization efforts are about 85% complete.

Jay Stefany, then-assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, told the committee’s seapower panel last month that the Navy had spent about $300 million on each ship.

The Navy’s proposed fiscal year 2023 budget proposal called for decommissioning 24 ships next year, including Vicksburg, Tortuga, Gunston Hall and the Norfolk-based cruiser USS San Jacinto, which is with the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group in the Mediterranean.

The four warships were commissioned between 30-32 years ago.

The Navy’s plans also call for decommissioning three San Diego-based cruisers next year as well as two dock landing ships in San Diego and Japan, nine Freedom-class littoral combat ships, two Los Angeles-class submarines and four support vessels.

It would mothball all of the Navy’s 22 cruisers by 2027.

The committee’s budget revisions would also push the Navy to expand its amphibious fleet to the 31 ships the Marine Corps says it needs. Under the Navy’s 2023 budget program, it would have 28 as of fiscal year 2023, and 24 in 2024 and wouldn’t reach 31 until 2031.

Luria also pressed for changes to improve access to child care for military families and to transfer nearly eight acres of land from Naval Air Station Oceana to the Hampton Roads Sanitation Department. This would open a new access road to an HRSD facility near Dam Neck.

Coming out of the House committee, the NDAA also includes $16.9 million for construction at Naval Station Norfolk, $10.5 million for Joint Base Langley-Eustis and $26.6 million for Naval Air Station Oceana’s Dam Neck annex.

The legislation also includes $22.4 million for energy and conservation programs at Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads.

Rep. Rob Wittman, ranking minority member on the committee’s seapower panel said the mark-up reverses several of the negative trends in the Navy’s proposed budget.

Besides blocking the mothballing of the Vicksburg and the four dock landing ships, it fully supports funding for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Board.

“But I think it is not enough,” he said. “Most importantly, we should be expanding our fleet rather than allowing it to contract, matching the pace of the expansive Chinese fleet in both capacity and capability.”


© 2022 Daily Press

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