National Security

Why Mattis Probably Isn’t Happy With Obama’s Carrier Gap In The Middle East

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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Secretary of defense nominee James Mattis will likely not be pleased with the current lack of U.S. carriers in the Middle East, based on his orders while serving as commander of CENTCOM.

The U.S. currently has no carrier in the Middle East after the USS Dwight D Eisenhower returned to Norfolk, Va., Friday. Prior to the Eisenhower, the U.S. relied on France’s lone aircraft carrier to conduct aerial operations against ISIS, leaving the U.S. without a carrier in the Middle East for the first time since 2007.

Mattis reportedly ordered two carriers to check on Iran’s behavior in the Persian Gulf while serving as a CENTCOM (United States Central Command). “It’s more difficult for me to reassure our friends and deter Iran” without a second carrier, Mattis told the U.S. Senate in 2013.

Pentagon officials indicated they needed the carriers to check any Iranian attempt to close critical shipping lanes. “There’s enough going on in that part of the world that you can see the merit in having a robust presence,” a senior Pentagon official told the LA Times in 2012.

The replacement carrier for the USS Eisenhower was heavily delayed in the shipyard — tightening the Pentagon’s deployment schedule. The shortage highlights military readiness problems exacerbated by past budget cuts and the 2011 sequestration process carried out by Congress and the Obama administration.

Trump indicated military readiness will be a key part of his defense budget, and that he will push to modernize the U.S Navy. Trump’s defense team indicated it would pursue a 350-ship Navy over the 272 active ships the Navy currently has.

“Trump’s plans are actually to build more ships and maintain a higher number of troops and aircraft. It will go a lot further than words to convince the world that we remain strong. It will help us to maintain the peace,” Sen. Jeff Sessions told Defense News on the eve of the 2016 presidential election.

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