JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville has been a Navy town for decades and it shows. The Navy's economic impact is $14.1 billion a year and that is going to grow.
"Our focus is to make sure we continue to strengthen our military base here," Mayor Alvin Brown said.
The Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, met with Mayor Alvin Brown to reassure him that the navy is committed to the first coast.
"This is the first place I've visited since the president's budget was put in and that's not by accident," said Mabus.
Mabus said the Navy is now spending $46 million to dredge near the Mayport station which would make it accessible to every single ship in the Navy.
He said while plans for an aircraft carrier at Mayport have been delayed, the Navy remains committed.
"We are absolutely committed to strategic disbursable," he said.
The carrier is due in 2019, but the Navy plans to locate an amphibious group at Mayport by 2015 and that involves several ships.
"With that comes 2,000 sailors and their families," said Mabus. "And for an amphibious ready group all of the maintenance is done here and that's $75 million a year."
For a few minutes the secretary met with a group of Naval ROTC cadets, the same group that was saved from a series of budget cuts. He told them their future is bright, as bright as the navy's presence on the first coast.
"You have shown your commitment to the military to the Navy and we hope the Navy is showing our commitment to Mayport, to Jacksonville in the same way," said Mabus.
While the secretary was showing the Navy's commitment to the mayor and civic leaders, military retirees were upset.
At issue is the proposed changes in health insurance for retirees.
Greg Kinder served 30 years in the Navy and enjoys his military health insurance benefits. He hates what's being proposed in the budget to cut defense spending.
"I'm very angry about the fact that they want to touch the healthcare programs that I was basically promised," said Greg Kinder.
The defense budget calls for annual enrollment fees for retirees in Tricare Prime to increase by 30-to-78% depending on military retirement income.
"It isn't fair at all and it is just wrong," said Kinder.
The proposal also calls for an increase in the co-pay for prescription drugs. Retired Rear Admiral Kevin Delaney said retirees are also concerned that they alone are being asked to pay the increase.
"It doesn't affect anybody's healthcare premium payments across the whole federal sector except our military retirees," said Delaney.
That he says is unfair, but Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus says the Department of Defense is facing some tough fiscal challenges
"If we don't get personnel costs in line it is beginning to take up a huge chunk of the defense budget," said Mabus.
He called the proposed increase modest.
"There have been some modest increases recommended for working age retirees," Mabus said. " This will not affect active duty and wounded warriors."
The retirees who it will effect plan to petition their congressmen to stop the rate increase.