NORFOLK, Va. — The Navy freed up $40 million to allow shipyard workers to continue to prepare the Abraham Lincoln, while the aircraft carrier sits in Norfolk awaiting its midlife refueling and overhaul.
The flat top was supposed to steam into Newport News Shipbuilding for the major tune-up on Valentine's Day, kicking off a multi-billion-dollar, four-year project. But the Navy postponed signing a contract for the work because of budgetary uncertainty.
However on Wednesday afternoon, the Naval Sea Systems Command extended an advanced planning contract for the prep work on the Lincoln, adding the $40 million while noting that the "work will take place at Naval Station Norfolk because of a delay in awarding the (refueling and complex overhaul) due to the continuing resolution."
The continuing resolution refers to a stopgap spending measure through which Congress determined the Pentagon's 2012 budget. If lawmakers can't pass a 2013 defense budget by late March, military spending will remain at the 2012 levels set in the resolution.
Reacting to the possibility of budget inaction, Navy officials delayed the work on the Lincoln and canceled a string of surface ship maintenance projects.
"This extension helps preserve the schedule and maintain a skilled work force until the RCOH contract can be awarded," said a Navy official Wednesday.
The money, the official said, comes from what's called an Above Threshold Reprogramming, funding approved by Congress in September of last year.
Shipyard officials have said the contract delay throws them off schedule and will make the overhaul more expensive for the Navy. And Mike Petters, president and CEO of shipyard parent company Huntington Ingalls Industries, has said that if the Navy doesn't find funding to start the overhaul in fiscal year 2013, the company would have to consider layoffs.
The Navy official noted that moving the money around prevent a more serious disruption to a number of carrier projects that could be impacted by delays to the Lincoln timeline, and helps the shipyard retain skilled workers.
A shipyard spokeswoman could not be reached immediately for comment on Wednesday.