NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The Navy is in the process of restoring funds to refuel and overhaul the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, a critical job for Newport News Shipbuilding, a source confirmed Tuesday.
The funds could be awarded to the shipyard within weeks, said a Navy official who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
The news, first reported by Defense News, was hailed by Virginia senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine in a joint release Tuesday.
The fate of the Washington was thrown into doubt when the Navy said it would move to decommission the ship, not refuel it, if sequestration-level budget cuts returned in 2016. That would have meant far less work for the shipyard, and from a national perspective, would reduce the U.S. carrier fleet from 11 to 10.
That sparked bipartisan opposition in Congress, especially in the Virginia delegation.
Last month, both the full House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee approved funding for the refueling. The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act set aside $483 million. In the Senate, Kaine's amendments set aside up to $696 million. The full Senate must still vote on that measure, which is expected later this month.
Warner and Kaine said Tuesday's developments indicate the Navy will fund an 11-carrier fleet.
"This is terrific news," Warner said, adding "it's also a great tribute to our shipbuilders in Hampton Roads to have this clear signal that the 11-carrier fleet remains a top Navy priority."
"Supporting the 11-carrier statutory mandate has been one of our top priorities this year," added Kaine.
The delay has already caused headaches for the shipyard, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries. In April, a shipyard official said the refueling project, if it happens, will be behind schedule because of advance work required. That was according to Ken Mahler, Newport News Shipbuilding vice president of Navy programs.