WASHINGTON, DC -- If local elected leaders get their way, not only will Mayport once again be the homeport for an aircraft carrier, but it will be sooner than planned.
Sen. Bill Nelson joined with Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ander Crenshaw to appeal to the Navy Secretary to speed up by three years the improvements necessary at Naval Station Mayport, meaning a carrier would move from Norfolk in 2016, not 2019.
In a letter to Secretary Ray Mabus, the three noted that Congress has found the move will not cost as much as forecast.
According to Nelson, the Government Accountability Office last month estimated the cost of upgrading Mayport to handle a nuclear carrier at just under $283 million. The Navy had placed the estimate at $397 million.
In their letter, the three laid out a four-year plan that culminates with a carrier arriving at Mayport.
The have been trying to get a carrier moved to Mayport since the decommissioning of the USS John F. Kennedy in 2007.
Representatives from Virginia have maintained opposition to the move, calling it an unneccessary expense.
Norfolk is currently the only homeport for aircraft carriers on the East Coast.
Here is the complete text of the letter:
Dear Secretary Mabus:
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released an independent cost estimate that shows a significant reduction in construction costs for homeporting a carrier in Mayport. Given these revised estimates, now would be an appropriate time to look at completing Mayport's carrier construction projects as early as possible to accelerate the carrier move to FY16.
The maximum GAO estimate of $282.8M for wharf improvements, maintenance facilities construction, and parking is significantly lower than the Navy's estimate of $397M. Furthermore, during recent testimony to Congress, the Navy reiterated its commitment to homeporting a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Mayport. The evidence in favor of completing the move is overwhelming, and as we move past discussions on the merits of the move and on to the practical execution, we are excited to see the Navy's plans to completion. This substantial savings should allow the Navy to complete the necessary infrastructure upgrades sooner, rather than later.
Advancing the carrier move from FY19 to FY16 will reduce the current national security risk by three years, a substantial improvement over the current plan. Frigate retirements and the delays in LCS deliveries have caused significant challenges for the ship repair industrial base in Northeast Florida, and the carrier move will help mitigate that greatly. We urge you to apply the GAO cost savings to revise the schedule as follows:
- FY13: Wharf F improvements
- FY14: Controlled Industrial Facility construction
- FY15: Ship Maintenance Facility/Maintenance Support Facility and parking
- FY16: Carrier move
Strategic dispersal of the nuclear carrier fleet is a Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) mandate which reduces national security risks. We look forward to hearing about how the Navy, in a time of efficiency initiatives, plans to apply these cost-savings to more quickly achieve this national security objective. Thank you for your consideration of this request.
First Coast News