Future of USS George Washington hangs in balance


by Mike Gooding, 13News Now


Posted on July 8, 2014 at 5:35 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 10 at 6:12 AM

NORFOLK -- The Navy aircraft carrier USS George Washington could still be in trouble.

A new document  from the Pentagon once again raises the possibility of early decommissioning for the 22-year-old vessel.

In a July 1 letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work writes that unless Congress does not repeal the Budget Control Act of 2011, and the automatic sequestration cuts that come with it, the department will be forced to retire the carrier. 

Such a move would of course be harmful to the Hampton Roads economy, with the GW scheduled to undergo a complex mid-life overhaul and nuclear refueling at Newport News Shipbuilding.

"That is not good news for this area," said Tidewater Community College Professor of Business Management and Administration Peter Shaw.

Shaw said the region would suffer a $1 billion to $2 billion hit to its economy.

Early retirement of George Washington would also reduce the number of active aircraft carriers in the Navy fleet from the Congressionally-mandated minimum of 11 to 10. 

Local representatives and senators have vowed to fight any such reduction.

Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) released the following statement to 13News Now:

"There’s no question that without additional sequester relief, the USS George Washington is at risk down the line. However, given our major victories in the Senate and House Armed Services committees and House Appropriations bill this year, as well as reporting that the Navy is committed to moving forward with the refuel and complex overhaul in 2015 based on these positive signals from Congress, our 11 carrier fleet is in a good place.  Preserving our naval shipbuilding capabilities remains a top priority of mine.”