NORFOLK, Va. - Rapid fire phone calls across Virginia Thursday spread word of
the Navy's announcement delaying a decision whether to move a
nuclear-powered aircraft carrier from Naval Station Norfolk to a
smaller base in Mayport, Florida.
Frank Roberts is the Executive Director of the Hampton Roads
Military and Federal Facilities Alliance, created by local mayors
in 2006 to protect the region's military and federal
Roberts says the Department of Defense is trying to step back
from its January decision to move a local carrier to Mayport, a
move many viewed as political.
"This enables them to step back from that decision without
making it look blatantly like they are abandoning the previous
administration's political decision," said Roberts. "The former
president's brother used to be the governor of Florida and so there
was strong ties to Florida."
Senator Mark Warner released this statement saying: "This is a
promising development for the taxpayers (and) reflects a Pentagon
that is now being guided by fiscal and strategic priorities."
Roberts agrees, pointing to the $1 billion price tag for
retrofitting Mayport to accommodate a nuclear flattop.
"Until the DoD and the Navy can solve some of its budget
shortfall, relative to shipbuilding, aircraft shortfalls, this
makes the most sense in terms of how they spend the money," said
There is another issue... when sailors complete their sea duty
tour, they go to shore duty and at the massive Naval Station
Norfolk there is more than enough work for them.
"But, the shore duty jobs are not there for them in Mayport.
Most of those people rotating off that ship do not have a shore
duty job to go to at Mayport, so they would have to be reassigned,
pick up, pack up and move somewhere else," said Roberts.
The next step for the bipartisan effort of the Virginia
delegation is to examine the final federal budget when it comes out
next month to see exactly what funds are in the budget specifically
related to this issue.