Trump Keeps Carrier USS Truman Activated

Vice President Mike Pence speaks to the crew of the Truman, April 30 (White House)

By The Maritime Executive 05-01-2019 04:38:54

On Tuesday morning, during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, vice chief of naval operations Adm. Bill Moran defended the administration's plan to decommission the carrier USS Harry S. Truman. That afternoon, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the president had decided to keep the supercarrier operational. 

“President Donald Trump asked me to deliver a message . . . We are keeping the best carrier in the world in the fight. We are not retiring the Truman,” said Pence, speaking aboard the carrier in port at Norfolk, Virginia. 

In March, Trump's acting secretary of defense, ex-Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan, informed Congress of a plan to remove the Truman from the fleet in 2024. The decision would have avoided her mid-life Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH), and would have saved about $3.4 billion over five years - and up to $30 billion over the span of her remaining life. The Pentagon said that the extra funding could be used for much-needed advanced technology and modernization efforts. 

The decommissioning proposal was unpopular in Congress: Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle raised questions about the value of removing a working Nimitz-class vessel from service, and several raised concerns about the effect that early decommissioning would have on the industrial base. 

On Wednesday, the decision to keep the carrier in service met with widespread relief on Capitol Hill. Sen Richard Shelby (R-AL), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told DefenseNews that Congress “didn’t want to do it. I think it’s bipartisan that the Truman has a lot more life."

The president confirmed Pence's announcement with a social media message on Wednesday. “I am overriding the Decommission Order of the magnificent aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman, built in 1998 (fairly new), and considered one of the largest and finest in the world. It will be updated at a fraction of the cost of a new one (which also are being built)!” Trump wrote. 

"Inappropriate" directions

The contents of Pence's announcement were somewhat overshadowed by news that the Truman's crew had received unusual instructions: the U.S. Navy has confirmed that the vessel's top enlisted sailor asked the crew to "clap like we're at a strip club" prior to Pence's arrival. 

"We can confirm that this statement was made by USS Harry S. Truman's Command Master Chief to Truman's Sailors, prior to the arrival of the Vice President," Lt. Cmdr. Laura Stegherr (USN) said in a statement to media. "This statement was inappropriate, and this issue is being addressed by Truman's leadership."