Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said today he is "not happy" with the Defense Department's decision to not refuel the aircraft carrier Harry Truman (CVN-75).
"I still am not happy with the results of that and my mental numbers don't agree with that,” Inhofe told Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan during a hearing about the department's fiscal year 2020 budget request.
Inhofe is one of several lawmakers directly involved with writing the annual defense policy bill who have publicly stated they disagree with DOD's decision.
Shanahan said the decision to not refuel the Truman was "difficult" and was made in concert with the Navy's dual buy of the third and fourth Gerald Ford-class aircraft carriers. He defended the decision and said it represents a strategic choice made in the FY-20 budget.
"Our lethality of our carriers and capability increases with the new carriers," Shanahan said. "Until mid-20s, we maintain the level of 11 carriers. The third [reason] is . . . to maintain employment. In fact, with this decision we grow employment in the industrial base."
At that point in the hearing, Inhofe interjected and voiced his displeasure.
Shanahan's comments contradict remarks made by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson yesterday at an industry gathering in Washington.
"I don't think they are connected," Richardson told reporters after Inside Defense asked about media reports speculating the dual-ship buy and the Truman decision were related.
The admiral said the dual-ship buy was a "statement about the aircraft carrier moving forward." However, the decision on the Truman's refueling is "connected to balancing capabilities between 25 years of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier against the requirements."
"I don't see them as being tightly coupled," he said.