Tags: Pentagon | Considers | Retiring | Carrier | Reducing | Purchases

Pentagon Considers Retiring Carrier, Reducing Purchases

Thursday, 30 December 2004 12:00 AM

Other officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because proposals are still being weighed, said it appeared likely that for cost-saving reasons the Navy would retire one of its 12 carriers.

The New York Times reported in its Thursday editions that, under a Pentagon proposal, the Navy would retire the USS John F. Kennedy carrier next year and reduce the number of new LPD-17 San Antonio-class amphibious landing ships being built at a cost of about $1.2 billion apiece by Northrop Grumman.

The Kennedy is home-ported at Mayport Naval Station near Jacksonville, Fla.

A Navy spokesman, Cmdr. Danny Hernandez, said he could not comment on proposed program changes.

In a conference call with reporters in Florida on Thursday, members of the state's congressional delegation and Gov. Jeb Bush said they each had received a phone call from Navy Secretary Gordon England last week telling them that Kennedy could be decommissioned for budget savings.

The Kennedy is currently scheduled to be retired in 2018. It has been in the carrier fleet since 1968 and is the third oldest of the 12 active carriers. Only the USS Enterprise and USS Kitty Hawk are older.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said retiring the Kennedy early would be a mistake.

``When we are at war, it is not a time to reduce carriers,'' he said. ``We need 12 carriers. It is the wrong process of allowing the budget to drive our national security policy.''

The Times on Wednesday was first to report that the Pentagon plans to curtail the F-22 fighter program. It said Pentagon officials had already informed the White House and members of Congress, and that the plan reflects an effort by the Bush administration to find savings that can help offset the unexpectedly high cost of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Pentagon is spending more than $4 billion a month in Iraq and about $1 billion a month in Afghanistan.

All of the military services are expecting to absorb program cuts for 2006, and officials said the Air Force is likely to achieve savings in the F-22 program by buying fewer than originally planned. It already has invested about $40 billion in research, development and early production.

Scaling back the F-22 program would not be a surprise, given that it has been discussed as a possibility almost from the start of Donald H. Rumsfeld's tenure as secretary of defense in 2001. Rumsfeld stresses that modernization of the military should be measured in terms of capabilities, not numbers of planes, ships and tanks, as was generally the yardstick used during the Cold War.

The Air Force's current plan calls for buying 277 F-22s, although some have suggested the total might be dropped as low as 120. There also has been talk of scaling back another fighter program, the so-called Joint Strike Fighter that is intended for use by the Navy, Marines and Air Force.

Ruff, while declining to discuss specifics about the F-22 program, indicated it is not being canceled.

``We're going to ensure that the F-22 will remain healthy,'' he said.

Ruff also said, without providing numbers, that the overall defense budget for 2006 is expected to be higher than 2005's $420 billion. Others said that while it may be higher, the rate of growth will be lower than in previous years.

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Other officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because proposals are still being weighed, said it appeared likely that for cost-saving reasons the Navy would retire one of its 12 carriers. The New York Times reported in its Thursday editions that, under a Pentagon...
Pentagon,Considers,Retiring,Carrier,,Reducing,Purchases
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2004-00-30
Thursday, 30 December 2004 12:00 AM
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