With all the services reining in spending to cope with the current budget crisis, the second and third-order effects of cutbacks will ripple through the force for years. While the Army “has it worst” by the Pentagon comptroller’s own assessment, the most complicated impacts are on the Navy, whose carefully planned maintenance schedule is falling apart. The fleet has already had to halve its aircraft carrier presence in the Persian Gulf, but delayed and cancelled overhauls will ultimately mean fewer ships in service in the years to come.
Ships require a lot of maintenance to work to stay ready for action, and none more than nuclear aircraft carriers. In addition to the regular pierside pitstops every type of vessel has to make, Nimitz-class carriers need their reactors refueled and thoroughly overhauled halfway through their 50-year service life. This massive “Refueling and Complex Overhaul” (RCOH) can only be performed at one shipyard in the nation, Huntington Ingalls Newport News yard in Virginia, so the next carrier has to come in as soon as the previous one is done. But last month the Navy delayed the USS Abraham Lincoln‘s overhaul indefinitely for lack of funds. That will in turn delay the next carrier on the schedule, the George Washington, and so on down the line. Keep reading →