Pearl carrier decision due in '06
The Navy's top ranking officer says a decision on whether a nuclear aircraft carrier will be based at Pearl Harbor is expected to be made next year.
In his first visit to the islands since becoming chief of naval operations in July, Adm. Michael G. Mullen told reporters yesterday that the basing of a second carrier in the Pacific away from the mainland is part of the Pentagon's ongoing study on the global position of U.S. troops.
The only other carrier in the far Pacific is the USS Kitty Hawk in Japan, which will be replaced by the USS George Washington in 2008.
A carrier based in Hawaii has attracted plenty of differing opinions.
Last week, Gen. Paul Hestor, head of Pacific Air Forces, said it would be complicated to have a carrier stationed at Pearl Harbor because it would be difficult to find space to base its nearly six dozen aircraft while at port.
Mullen said Hestor's view is just one of many.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chief of naval operations, met yesterday with more than 400 sailors from Pearl Harbor, the Marine base at Kaneohe and Kunia to answer their questions.
"No specific decision has been made at this particular point in time," said Mullen, who declined to state his preference, adding that he is part of the high-level decision-making process.
Mullen arrived here Monday and has been meeting sailors and Marines assigned to the Pacific Fleet. He is scheduled to be the keynote speaker this morning at the 64th annual Pearl Harbor Day commemoration at the USS Arizona Memorial visitor center.
Mullen, the 28th officer to head the Navy, met with more than 400 sailors from Pearl Harbor, the Marine base at Kaneohe and Kunia at an "all hands" morning session yesterday. The majority of the questions centered on personnel, promotion and duty assignment issues.
Mullen emphasized that today's Navy is "a war-fighting, sea-going service."
He said the current war on terror will be a long one, and American fighting forces will be in the Gulf region "for a significant period of time."
"There are no boundaries," he said about the insurgents in Iraq. "I believe we have entered an era of unrestricted warfare. There are no norms. There are no values. There is no conscience in respect to who they kill or where they go."
The Navy has 7,000 sailors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Mullen predicted that "those numbers are going to go up."
Mullen said one of the biggest changes in the Navy after the Sept. 11 attacks occurred in its security division. Before the attacks, there were 1,000 masters of arms in its police force; now there are 11,000.
The Navy also is expected to send 500 sailors to Iraq to run a new high-security prison and will replace the Army as caretakers of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
Mullen, who commanded the Pearl Harbor-based destroyer USS Goldsborough from 1985 to 1986, said the Navy is a major player in U.S. security requirements in the Pacific, but shied away from giving specifics on the Navy's plan to add more ships in this area.
That plan will be laid out in the Quadrennial Defense Review, which will be presented to Congress in January. During the Cold War, the number of ships in the Navy peaked at 568. There are now 281 vessels.
The Navy shipbuilding plan reportedly would increase that number to 325 over the next decade. It would settle at 313 warships between 2015 and 2020 as older ones are retired.