Today, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), along with Congressmen Mick Mulvaney (SC-05) and Kerry Bentivolio (MI-11), introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would allow the Navy to stay at its current level of 10 aircraft carriers, if it saw fit, instead of going back to a Congressionally-mandated requirement to have 11.
In Fiscal Year 2006 NDAA, Congress imposed an unnecessary requirement on the Navy to maintain no fewer than 12 operational aircraft carriers. That number, after proving unsustainable for the Navy, was reduced to 11 the next year. Subsequently the Navy has had to seek out a waiver from Congress to temporarily drop to 10 operational carriers until the Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is commissioned into service in 2016.
"Our amendment aims to make our Naval fleet stronger and more sustainable by allowing, not requiring, the Navy to stay at its current level of 10 aircraft carriers, instead of going back to a Congressionally-mandated level of 11," said Blumenauer.
Many leading military experts have said that the US could safely drop to as few as eight carriers. In an exercise to develop a strong defense in a reduced budget environment, seven leading organizations across the political spectrum (the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the American Enterprise Institute, Center for American Progress, Center for a New American Security, Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Foreign Policy Initiative, and the National Security Network), found that the Navy could reduce its operational fleet of carriers by between two and four.
"The entire Department of Defense, along with the rest of us, is facing shrinking budgets, changing priorities, and emerging technologies," said Blumenauer. "Our Navy is being pushed into shallow waters as a result of sequestration. Now more than ever, we should be giving them the flexibility needed to make strategic choices in a challenging budget environment.