The Navy would cut an aircraft carrier air wing based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., along with its five associated squadrons, under its $165 billion budget request for fiscal 2017 released earlier this week.
The proposal would reduce the number of aircraft carrier air wings in the Navy from 10 to nine.
“This proposal will allow the Navy to match the number of air wings to the number of deployable aircraft carriers,” Rear Adm. William Lescher told reporters during a budget briefing Tuesday. “It reflects the practice of having one carrier in refueling and complex overhaul, and one carrier in an extended maintenance availability at any time,” said Lescher, the service’s deputy assistant secretary for budget.
The aircraft would be allocated among the remaining squadrons and would boost readiness among the squadrons by reducing the dwell time between deployments, he said. Deployments can last for up to four years for wings attached to carriers undergoing refueling and a complex overhaul, reported Navy Times.
The plan already has been attacked by the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees.
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas.) told reporters the Navy’s proposal was “a little disturbing,” but said would study it more closely before offering an official position. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the request likely was a non-starter.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services’ Seapower Subcommittee, pointed to the plan as simply the latest attempt by the Obama administration to shrink the Navy, reported Politico. “So far, we’ve been pretty successful in putting all that back,” he said. “When you look right now and we have gaps with our carriers currently, and they’re going to take out an air wing? I mean, it really doesn’t make good military sense,” Forbes said.
The budget request also calls for the Navy to eliminate 6,300 sailor slots, shrinking the service from 329,200 billets to 322,900 billets. The proposal includes the cruiser modernization program, which the service first broached two years ago. It would dock up to half of the fleet’s 22 cruisers to reduce staffing needs and extend the ships’ service lives.
“This is an approach that leverages the saving of over $3 billion over [the next five years] in operating costs and maintains the best overall force balance,” Lescher said. “It retains the air-defense commander capable platforms in the force into the 2040s and allows us to reallocate personnel elsewhere in the fleet.”