Following a tactic used in the National Football League, the U.S. Navy has decided to place the Pearl Harbor based cruisers USS Port Royal, USS Lake Erie and USS Chosin on the “injured reserve” list, meaning that the ships remain in the Navy’s Fleet size count but are removed from active service and placed in “semi-mothball” status.

The Navy claims that the cruisers are being held in reserve until a long-term phased “modernization” plan is completed, whereupon the ships would then be reactivated and placed back into service. Word is that the Port Royal will remain in inactive status until 2026 and that it could take up to a year to complete the “reactivation process.”

This is apparently an option being considered to meet the financial constraints imposed by sequestration, while maintaining a semblance of a forward deployed combat ready naval force.  Hawaii’s U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa said that Congress would likely oppose the Navy’s plan to retire the cruisers, just as it has done with similar plans in recent years.

The retirement of the cruisers, “which is what I expected the modernization to really mean, is going to be detrimental for us in the Pacific,” Hanabusa said.  “In addition, of course, we homeport three of them and they are fine. There is nothing wrong with them.  hey’ve been repaired and they are functioning. So why do we want to do this?”

For example, Port Royal is the youngest of its class, is equipped with the much desired ballistic missile shoot down capability and received $18 million in refurbishment, $40 million on fixes after grounding in 2009, and more than $20 million in 2010 and 2011 to repair cracks in its aluminum alloy superstructure. The Navy then tried unsuccessfully to retire the Port Royal in 2013 and 2015 stating that the 2009 grounding had created hidden maintenance problems and that a mid-life upgrade would be expensive.

Moreover, placing three Pearl Harbor-based cruisers on hold in inactive status doesn’t appear to be in keeping with the intent of the planned shift of 60% of naval forces to the Pacific.

The missile defense capabilities of Pearl Harbor-based cruisers and destroyers are essential to meeting U.S. security strategy in coping with North Korea’s development of nuclear ballistic missile capabilities and keeping the vital sea lanes in the South China Sea free and open for global commerce and trade.

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