CENTCOM Commander Confirms There Is No Replacement for a Carrier to Deter Iranian Aggression

March 11, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Elaine Luria participated in a House Committee on Armed Services (HASC) hearing, where she questioned witnesses about the importance of carrier presence to the military’s mission in the Middle East.

In the hearing, Congresswoman Luria highlighted that USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN recently completed the longest deployment for a carrier since the Vietnam War. This occurred when USS HARRY S TRUMAN was unable to relieve her due to a casualty. The Congresswoman asked Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) General Kenneth McKenzie Jr. how vital it is to maintain a constant carrier presence in the Middle East. General McKenzie answered that carrier presence has “a profound deterring effect principally on Iran,” and is “a critical part of a deterrent posture effective against Iran.”

Click above to watch footage of Congresswoman Luria’s questioning during the hearing.

Congresswoman Luria then asked General McKenzie if the Air Force has the same deterrence potential as a carrier and if carrier presence has actually deterred Iranian aggression. General McKenzie emphasized that “land-based airpower is complementary to sea-based airpower.” He argued that sea-based airpower, from carriers, is launched from a place of American sovereignty, which increases flexibility for launching aircraft. General McKenzie also stated that “we have reestablished a form of contested deterrence with Iran… in part by our obvious force presence.” In effect, he said there are no substitutes for carrier presence to deter aggression from Iran, and that carrier deployment has deterred Iranian hostilities.

“During this morning’s hearing, it became clear that our national security and the safety of our Armed Forces depends on continued carrier presence in the Middle East,” said Congresswoman Luria. “Carriers provide our Armed Forces with unmatched deterrence capabilities that stop our adversaries from performing hostile actions. Since there is no replacement for carriers to deter Iranian aggression, it becomes more important that we properly maintain our carriers, so that they can deploy on time and with sustainable capabilities.”

Next, Congresswoman Luria questioned Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Kathryn Wheelbarger on the Dynamic Force Employment. As USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN was heading back from its deployment, a spokesman for Naval Air Forces in San Diego said this new deployment model means “less predictable deployments will become more routine.” Congresswoman Luria asked Wheelbarger if USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN’s extended deployment was an example of Dynamic Force Employment. Wheelbarger emphasized that the new deployment model will “allow us to be strategically predictable, but operationally unpredictable,” and that we must have the forces that allow us to respond to current events. Congresswoman Luria then asked General McKenzie if “the Navy and carrier fleet has been able to respond adequately to meet needs for deterrence.” Fortunately, General McKenzie said that they “have been able” to respond to those needs.

Congresswoman Elaine Luria represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where she is the Vice Chair of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where she serves as Chair of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee.