Carrier move to Mayport dead in the water?


Mayport’s former carrier, the conventionally powered John F. Kennedy, was decommissioned in March 2007.

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 …


About Author

A Navy brat who spent eight years in the Marines (two years aboard the carrier Independence). Worked in journalism in Eastern North Carolina through the latter part of the 90s, then became editor of Air Force Times in 2000. Stayed there five years, then took a break to finish some school. Now back in the game with Navy Times.


  1. RhodeIslander on

    keeping ALL East Coast carriers down in Norfolk is creating a mighty tempting target. The INTRACOASTAL waterway runs from Texas all the up here to New England. Many barges (full of ??) are pushed right past the Navy’s CVN ‘s down at the Naval Station Norfolk. The INTRACOASTAL waterway barges (hundreds per month) pass within a football field of each CVN homeported in Norfolk. I can’t be the first person to think this is just asking for a tugboat and barge loaded with ??? altering course while within 100 yards of a CVN and within 60 seconds having its barge touching the sides of a CVN. And a Harbor Patrol boat with a 50 cal machine gun will not stop a tugboat pushing a 100-200 tons of ( fill in the blank here ) loaded onto a barge somewhere between TEXAS and Norfolk on the INTRACOASTAL Waterway. Mayport should have 2 CVN’s homeported there right away. Or maybe 3 of them.

  2. This scenario is errant nonsense. How extremely unlikely is it that terrorists, or anybody else, are going to be able to get their hands on a barge (and a tugboat), fill it up with explosives and push it to Norfolk undetected, much less get it close enough to a carrier to do any damage. I would accord that likelihood a probability score of zero.

    Do you really think that terrorists would go to all the trouble and risk to carry out a complicated attack on a carrier when there are thousands of other targets that are much easier to attack and would require far less resources? Why would they do such a thing? Don’t come back with some claim that a carrier is high-value symbolic target. There are lots of such targets that would be much easier to attack, and would have as much or more publicity value.

    An off-the-wall far-fetched hypothetical about the danger of a barge on the intracoastal is reaching pretty far to justify moving a carrier from Norfolk to Mayport. There might be some debatable reasons for doing so, but this is surely not remotely close to being one of them.

    Mostly what this suggests is that the United States Navy is somehow incapable of protecting its own ships. Rather insulting to the service, in my opinion.

  3. @ Plumlee- It wasn’t all that long ago that CNN tried to reach out and touch a CVN out of Norfolk. They were completely sucessful and got in and out completely undetected. When they broadcasted the video footage the next day Washington freaked out on Norfolk and Norfolk ended up doubling the boat patrols up and down the Elizabeth river. As far as the far fetched nonsense…do not forget the USS Cole incident. It was just that exact scenario where a tugboat loaded with explosives blew a 40 foot by 20 foot hole in the side of the ship and killed 19 sailors aboard. So swallow that pride with some syrup cause it is gonna be bitter. Be a realist, we have enough toddlers to wave flags around for us.

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