WASHINGTON — An amendment to reduce the statutory requirement that the U.S. Navy keep 11 aircraft carriers in service was defeated June 13, first by voice vote and then by a recorded vote of 318-106.
Offered by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oreg., and co-sponsored by Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., the amendment would lower the requirement to ten aircraft carriers.
Blumenauer, during the floor debate, explained the amendment would not limit the Navy to 10 carriers, but would rather give the service the ability to decide how many flattops would be active, not Congress.
“The Navy is going to have 11 carriers when the one under construction goes into operation. Nothing in this amendment denies them that,” Blumenauer said, referring to the carrier Gerald R. Ford, expected to be delivered in 2016.
“The amendment says that subsequently, going out 20, 30 years, the decision about the minimum level will be left to the Navy, not the Congress,” Blumenauer added.
The requirement to meet a set level, Blumenauer, “is a symbol of Congress micromanaging, substituting their judgment for the command structure.
“It’s important for us to express our confidence in them,” Blumenauer concluded.
Mulvaney concurred. “All we’re doing is giving the Navy more control over how many carriers the Navy has,” he said. “The amendment has no impact on national defense.”
But opponents, including Reps. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., and Randy Forbes, R-Va., reacted as though the amendment would limit both the number of carriers in service and Congress’ ability to decide that number.
“One of the things that unites Democrats and Republicans is that the Constitution mandates Congress to build strong navies. It mandates us and we will not walk away from that mandate,” declared Forbes.
Forbes and Courtney noted that Congress and the Navy agree on an 11-ship carrier force.
“Every [Quadrennial Defense Review] since 2011 says we need 11 carriers,” said Forbes.
“Strategy should drive decisions in Congress,” said Courtney. “The Navy has spoken with a report which clearly articulated an 11-carrier force.”