Last week, Florida’s fight for a carrier was staggered by this Government Accountability Office report. Seeing the Sunshine State was standing on spaghetti legs, Rep. Glenn Nye, D-Va., on Wednesday night landed what Virginia lawmakers hope to be the knock-out punch.
It happened as the House Armed Services Committee considered the 2011 defense bill.
As first reported by Military Times’ own Rick Maze in this story, a meager $2 million that would cover preliminary architectural and construction at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., was included in H.R. 5136. But Nye urged his fellow congressman to not be fooled by the numbers. “This is a $1 billion question,” he said. (Last year, the Navy estimated that upgrading Mayport would cost less than $600 million.)
Numerous Virginia lawmakers and business leaders have made the same argument, stating that the costs required to move a carrier are inexcusable amid tight budgets and a $907 million backlog for restoration and modernization projects at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., has led this battle cry, calling the Navy proposal “fiscally irresponsible and strategically unjustified” in a Dec. 23 sent a letter to Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn.
Florida lawmakers counter (and are backed by the Defense Department and Navy) that having two carrier homeports on the East Coast is a matter of national security. They point to the Pacific Fleet, which separates its carriers. And, of course, there’s that little bit of history from Pearl Harbor.
There is ammunition for the Mayport move. It provides faster access to the Atlantic Ocean and would disperse the industrial and nuclear maintenance facilities. On the other hand, the costly move could just as easily be squashed for many reasons. Namely, homeporting a nuclear-powered carrier is only one of 13 options the Navy has for Mayport.
So why all the fuss? Ultimately, it comes down to the almighty dollar.
Hampton Roads, Va., could lose 11,000 jobs and $650 million if the carrier goes, the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce estimated last year. Hampton Roads’ congressional delegation failed last year to stop the funding of $76 million for dredging and docking upgrades at Mayport. But they were successful this time around.
Whether that will prove decisive remains to be seen. In late April, spokesman Lt. Paul Macapagal told Navy Times the service “is committed to using Mayport as a second nuclear carrier homeport, but that will not happen before the completion of required military construction projects there.” The move is expected in 2019. You can read the story here.
And stay tuned …