Navy Forced to Keep Ships it Can’t Afford

USS Cowpens / AP

USS Cowpens / AP


The U.S. Navy must spend billions fixing out-of-commissioned ships because Congress failed to agree on a 2013 budget, reports

Four Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers were on the Navy’s decommissioning list for 2013 because repairing and upgrading them would cost billions of dollars. But Congress objected to the cuts and instead authorized money to maintain three of them.

That money has yet to materialize.

[Congress] instead placed government spending under a continuing resolution — a Band-Aid measure that keeps the government running at 2012 budget levels, with no new appropriations.

The Navy must now keep three cruisers in operation: the Norfolk, Va.-based Anzio, the Mayport, Fa.-based Viicksburg, and the Cowpens in Yokosuka, Japan.

Vice Adm. Bill Burke, head of Navy’s logistics, told members of House and Senate Armed Services Committees last spring that maintaining and updating cruisers would cost more than $5 billion.

Choosing to decommission them was a tough decision, Burke said, but the Navy needed to make the trade-off to ensure the readiness of the whole fleet and “avoid a hollow force.”

Both the House and the Senate panels opposed prematurely cutting ships at a time when the fleet is expected to make do with fewer resources.

The National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Barack Obama in January disallows the Navy from decommissioning the three ships. Instead, “it authorized $628.5 million for the Anzio, Vicksburg and Cowpens.”