Updated: Tuesday, 09 Mar 2010, 1:54 PM EST
Published : Tuesday, 16 Feb 2010, 9:10 AM EST
NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - A political struggle over a Navy carrier has turned into a war of words.
The Defense Department says it wants to move an East Coast carrier to Florida, and a Senator from that state has already asked the Navy to name that carrier.
Currently, Naval Station Norfolk is home to all five East Coast carriers.
And while Florida lawmakers are pushing hard to make the carrier move a reality, Virginia Senator Jim Webb says he'll fight every step of the way to keep that from happening.
Even though Naval Station Mayport in Florida would not be fully nuclear carrier capable for another three or four years, Florida Senator Bill Nelson says dredging is already underway - and he wants to keep moving forward - including having the Navy name the carrier it wants to move.
"We can bring the carrier here for ports of call," said Nelson, "further identifying Jacksonville, eventually, as the homeport of this carrier along with 4,000 sailors and all their families."
But Virginia's lawmakers will not support the billion dollars in funding it would take for the move. In a written statement, Sen. Webb said "Instead of putting this billion dollars into a redundant facility, the Navy should put it into building two more ships."
Frank Roberts of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance agrees with Webb.
"Beyond ship building, the Navy has a looming strike fighter aircraft shortfall," said Roberts. "They have about a three billion dollar backlog in ship repair and maintenance requirements."
Senator Nelson says the Navy's decision to move a carrier to Mayport shows that a second east coast carrier location is also a crucial need.
"Getting a half a billion dollars in this fiscal environment over the next five years is no easy task," said Nelson, "but we will get it done because it's the right thing to do."
Roberts' nonprofit group exists to protect and sustain military capabilities in the region. But he, like Virginia's congressional delegation, believes the fight to keep carriers at Naval Station Norfolk goes beyond what's good for the region - to what's good for the Navy - and the nation.
"It's about fiscal responsibility in a time of economic downturn," he said.
While Sen. Nelson says he would love for Florida to get the new USS George H.W Bush, the Navy has yet to indicate which carrier is slated to move.
Senator Webb believes the carrier decision is not final - and could be revised once it's time to actually pay for a move.
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