The Hill: US Navy Delays Decision on Homeport of Supercarrier
Focus on Defense:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 1, 2008 -- Writing in The Hill yesterday, Roxana Tiron said the U.S. Navy postponed making a final decision over whether to move a nuclear aircraft carrier that both Florida and Virginia are fighting to attract.
Navy Secretary Donald Winter was supposed to make a decision by the end of December that would have cleared the way for shipping the next available nuclear-powered carrier to Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Fla., or keeping it at the Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia. Sources say that decision will now come as early as next week.Naval Air Station Cecil Field in Jacksonville, which was originally projected to be the Navy's largest Master Jet Base, was closed under President Clinton in 1993 and would have been the closest jet base to Mayport.
Delegations for both states have been lobbying both the Bush administration and the incoming Obama administration, trying to make the case that their respective ports would be a better fit for a nuclear carrier that can generate billions of dollars for the local economy.
The likely candidate is the George H.W. Bush, a carrier that the Navy officially announced this week would stay in Norfolk initially. Mayport is not equipped at the moment to house the carrier, and will not likely be ready until 2014.
Having the carrier in Norfolk for several years could give Virginia leverage in its fight to prevent the move of any aircraft carrier from the largest carrier base on the East Coast. Norfolk is now home to four aircraft carriers.
The carriers represent an economic lifeline for the Hampton Roads region, but moving one could revive the Jacksonville ship-repair industry and economy.
[. . .]
Mayport was home to the conventionally powered John F. Kennedy carrier until it was decommissioned last March. Mayport will lose other ships, too. Ten frigates will be decommissioned by 2014, and the number of sailors will go down from 13,300 to fewer than 9,300.
Unless a carrier or other ships are added, the ship-repair industry around the area will deteriorate. Nelson and the Florida delegation have argued that having too many carriers in one port could create a strategic target for an enemy of the U.S. The Navy also justified its preference to move a carrier to Mayport partly on its desire to disperse the fleet in the case of a natural disaster or terrorist attack.
Norfolk lost one of its longtime carriers — the U.S.S George Washington — which is changing homeports to Yokosuka, Japan, as the nation’s only carrier permanently stationed overseas. Virginians calculate that the economic activity related to one carrier can reach $1 billion a year.
Currently, all the fighter jets that would go on the carriers based on the East Coast are housed at the Oceana Master Jet base near Norfolk.
(Report from commercial media and historical sources.)
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