New date for carrier move sparks partisan spat

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Print this page Heather Hayes

A new deadline has emerged in the Navy’s plan to move a Virginia-based aircraft carrier to Florida, and elected officials from opposing parties are debating what the change means.

A little more than a year ago Navy officials announced plans to move by 2014 one of five nuclear-powered aircraft carriers at Naval Station Norfolk to Naval Station Mayport in Florida. Now the Navy’s target is 2019.

Virginia officials, who have pushed the Navy to re-examine the controversial proposal, hailed the five-year change in plans as a victory.  Democratic Sen. Jim Webb, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, believes that the delay could be permanent. “Given the other needs of the Navy, and the prospect of moving other types of ships to Mayport earlier, it appears that the relocation of an aircraft carrier from Norfolk to Mayport is unlikely to happen,” Webb said in a statement.

A fellow Democrat, 2nd District Rep. Glenn Nye, echoed Webb’s sentiments after visiting Mayport in April.  “After seeing the lack of capability at Mayport, and knowing what we have here in Norfolk, it’s going to take a lot more time and money than the Navy has previously stated to homeport a nuclear carrier there,” he said in a statement.

But Florida Republican Rep. Ander Crenshaw, whose district includes Mayport, is firing back, issuing a statement saying “nothing has changed.” He contends that the 2019 date is a worst-case scenario “and would occur only if each and every step of the process took the longest amount of time possible.”

Crenshaw and the National Republican Congressional Committee accused Nye of using the deadline shift to bolster his re-election campaign.

Opposition to the carrier move, nonetheless, is bipartisan in Virginia.  Economic development officials believe that the move would cost the Hampton Roads region an estimated 11,000 jobs and $500 million a year. 

The Navy has said that the move is an effort to achieve “strategic dispersal” of its East Coast fleet but estimates that upgrading Mayport’s facilities to support a nuclear carrier will cost $600 million to $1 billion in one-time and recurring costs.

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