The Navy's top officer said the carrier Harry S. Truman is needed as the U.S. and its allies bear down on the Islamic State group, which officials and experts say is on the ropes after nearly two years of bombing and special operations raids.
Richardson has championed an effort begun by his predecessor to reign in the Navy's deployment lengths to no more than seven months. He rejected the notion that the extension, which pushes a previously scheduled seven-month deployment to eight months, signaled a return to long deployments.
"This decision was not made lightly, and does not signal a return to extended deployments. Deliberate planning went into this decision, assessing the impact on the lives of our Sailors, their families, as well as Fleet readiness," Richardson said. "Before deviating from our seven-month deployment policy, we consider each Combatant Commander's request to ensure the readiness of our naval forces is considered. We will do everything we can to mitigate the impact on our families and execute planned seven-month deployment lengths going forward."
Richardson thanked the sailors and families for pushing on.
"The superb efforts of the men and women of the HST Carrier Strike Group have and will continue to be instrumental in winning this fight," Richardson said. "We extend our sincerest thanks to the men and women of the HST Carrier Strike Group and their families as they all share in this sacrifice."
"The reaction has been exceedingly positive," Batchelder said in a Friday phone interview. "They have the attitude of professional sailors, just as I would expect. They received the news right in stride."
'We need more Navy'
The extension of Truman came as no surprise to critics who say the country has let the Navy become too small. The Navy has been down from 11 carriers to 10 since the Enterprise was taken out of service in 2012.
Truman's extension also is a bad omen for the Navy's new plan to get the fleet back to a predictable rotation. Known as the Optimized Fleet Response Plan, the Navy is pushing for seven-month deployments with more time built in for maintenance and training. The idea is that the Navy only deploys the ships that are maintained, manned, trained and equipped to go forward.
The Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group, which deploys to relieve Truman later this spring, is scheduled to be the first carrier under the OFRP construct.
"The extension of Truman should surprise no one, and it exposes the vacuity of the Navy's 'supply driven' approach to force management (OFRP), which essentially states to the President and the COCOMs, 'Hey, this is what we have, here's how we intend to provide it, you folks need to make do,'" McGrath said. "This is a logical, coherent, and straightforward approach, right up until it has to be actually implemented in the real world."
McGrath said the world state demands a bigger Navy or fewer requirements.
"The plain, ugly, truth is that if we wish to adequately sustain and advance our interests in a world of increasing great power contention, we need more carriers, more submarines, more ships, and more airplanes," he said. "In short, we need more Navy."
"We have a 10-carrier fleet in a 15-carrier world, and that doesn't just hurt our Navy combat power, it also hurts our Navy families," said Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Virginia, who chairs the House Armed Services Seapower subcommittee.
Bryan Clark, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said the strain on the fleet is inevitable until Enterprise's replacement, the first-in-class carrier Gerald R. Ford, comes online.
"You either have to accept presence gaps or long deployments," he said "And it's going to be that way until the Ford enters the fleet."
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News. Before that, he reported for Navy Times.