WASHINGTON (WAVY) - Following Defense Secretary Robert Gates' announcement earlierthis week that he wants to
In the letter from Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner, along withRepresentatives Bobby Scott, Glenn Nye, Randy Forbes, and RobWittman, the lawmakers say cancelling the plan to move aNorfolk-based carrier to Mayport will save $1 billion dollars.
The letter states: In our view, cancelling this poorly justified scheme wouldyield 10 percent of the secretary’s required savings. Intoday’s increasingly constrained fiscal environment, wesimply cannot afford to build redundant nuclear-supportinfrastructure without a demonstrably higher level of risk towarrant an investment of this magnitude.
The $1 billion dollars in savings comes from the estimated costof refurbishing Mayport to handle a nuclear-powered carrier.Presently, the base is not equipped to do so. Currently, all EastCoast based nuclear powered aircraft carriers are homeported atNaval Station Norfolk.
The letter continues: In the current budget environment, you have the difficult taskof eliminating lower priority projects and programs that are notwell-justified by a rigorous risk-based, cost-benefit analysis. TheNavy has consistently acknowledged that there is a low risk that acatastrophic event could close Hampton Roads. This risk assessmentundercuts the Navy’s rationale for seeking to create analternative East Coast homeport for nuclear-powered aircraftcarriers. For this reason, the "opportunity cost" of spending up to$1 billion at NS Mayport for carrier homeporting will unavoidablydivert funds from far more important requirements. As you said,"Every dollar wasted is a dollar we can not spend building thefleet that we need."
The Navy announced its intention to move a carrier to Mayportwhen it
Since that announcement, Virginia lawmakers have steadfastlyargued that spending the funds necessary to upgrade Mayport was nota luxury the Navy could afford, particularly in light of billionsof dollars in funding shortfalls and backlogs for shoreinfrastructure projects.
The Navy contends redundant basing options on the East Coast fornuclear-powered carriers are long overdue. They argue that with somuch power located in one place (Naval Station Norfolk), a naturaldisaster or terrorist attack in Hampton Roads could be catastrophicto the nation's defense.
The full text of the letter to Secretary Mabus is below:
July 1, 2010
The Honorable Ray Mabus
Secretary of the U.S. Navy
1000 Navy Pentagon
Washington, DC 20350-1000
Dear Secretary Mabus:
We write today in support of your efforts to trim wastefulspending, improve use of taxpayer dollars, and “make everydollar count” for our Navy’s most critical programs andforce structure requirements.
Secretary of Defense Gates recently said, “GivenAmerica’s difficult economic circumstances and parlous fiscalcondition, military spending on things large and small can andshould expect closer, harsher scrutiny.” He has directed themilitary departments to find savings of more than $10 billion inDepartment of Defense (DoD) future budgets. During your review ofthe Navy’s spending plans, we urge you to reconsider theNavy’s proposal to homeport a nuclear-powered aircraftcarrier at Naval Station (NS) Mayport, Fla. In our view, cancellingthis poorly justified scheme would yield 10 percent of thesecretary’s required savings. In today’s increasinglyconstrained fiscal environment, we simply cannot afford to buildredundant nuclear-support infrastructure without a demonstrablyhigher level of risk to warrant an investment of thismagnitude.
Our concerns regarding growing cost estimates for the projectare shared by the House Committee on Armed Services (HASC). Itsreport accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act forFiscal Year 2011 states, “… the estimates for the costsof homeporting a nuclear aircraft carrier at Naval Station Mayportcontinue to rise and may cost as much as $1 billion in militaryconstruction and recurring operation and maintenance costs.”Accordingly, the committee directed the Government AccountabilityOffice to conduct an audit of all costs associated with the NSMayport conversion, stating, “The committee is concerned thatthe full costs associated with the proposed second East Coasthomeport for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier have beenunderestimated, introducing a measure of budgetary risk andpotential shortfalls in future year’s defense budgetsubmissions.” Finally, the report expressed concern that“implementation … would require maintenance teams fromother nuclear-powered aircraft carrier homeport locations to besent to NAVSTA Mayport temporarily to support maintenancerequirements, potentially at significant additionalcost.”
We believe that President Obama’s June 10, 2010,memorandum titled, “Disposing of Unneeded Federal Real Estate– Increasing Sales Proceeds, Cutting Operating Costs, andImproving Energy Efficiency” should guide your reevaluationof the Mayport homeporting plan. The President’s memo states,“For decades, the federal government … has managed morereal estate than necessary to effectively support its programs andmissions. Both taxpayer dollars and energy resources are beingwasted to maintain these excess assets … . Agencies shallalso take immediate steps to make better use of remaining realproperty assets as measured by utilization and occupancy rates,annual operating cost, energy efficiency, andsustainability.” The Navy already has excess nuclear-supportshore infrastructure for the nuclear fleet of today and tomorrow.Building redundant infrastructure in Mayport that will only bemanned when a carrier is in homeport directly contradicts thePresident’s policy guidance.
The President’s memorandum also directs that, "In total,agency efforts required by this memorandum should produce no lessthan $3 billion in cost savings by the end of fiscal year 2012,yielded from increased proceeds from the sale of assets and reducedoperating, maintenance, and energy expenses from disposals or otherspace consolidation efforts, including leases that areended.” We find it ironic that the Navy is advocating anexpensive and unnecessary military construction project at the sametime that the Obama administration seeks to save $3 billion inspending on federal property. Indeed, cancelling the Mayporthomeporting proposal would satisfy nearly one-third of thepresident’s goal of saving $3 billion.
Adm. Roughead recently asserted, “The biggest question forall of us is, what are we willing to afford? Certainly, no navytoday can afford to spend its way out of this challenge. We have tothink our way out, and we have to maintain affordability.”Given the Navy’s significant shortfalls in shipbuilding, theprocurement of strike-fighter aircraft, and the recapitalization ofits aging shore infrastructure, we are confident your reevaluationof the Mayport homeporting scheme will reveal it is simply notaffordable.
While we fully support the Navy’s need to sustain theviability of NS Mayport and its adjoining ship maintenance andrepair industrial base, we believe that homeporting non-nuclearships, such as Littoral Combat Ships, would cost far less, posefewer logistical and operating challenges, better match requiredship maintenance with industrial base capabilities in the region,and be more responsive to the operational needs of the U.S.Southern Command.
At the recent Naval War College’s Current Strategy Forum,you said, “Both the President and the Secretary of Defensehave made it clear that we’ve got to do a better job ofmanaging those tax dollars. There are no sacred cows, andeverything is on the table as we review every dollar we spend andhow we spend it … . Every dollar wasted is a dollar wecan’t spend protecting our Sailors and our Marines. Everydollar wasted is a dollar we can not spend building the fleet thatwe need. And every dollar wasted is a dollar we can’t spenddefending this country."
In the current budget environment, you have the difficult taskof eliminating lower priority projects and programs that are notwell-justified by a rigorous risk-based, cost-benefit analysis. TheNavy has consistently acknowledged that there is a low risk that acatastrophic event could close Hampton Roads. This risk assessmentundercuts the Navy’s rationale for seeking to create analternative East Coast homeport for nuclear-powered aircraftcarriers. For this reason, the “opportunity cost” ofspending up to $1 billion at NS Mayport for carrier homeportingwill unavoidably divert funds from far more important requirements.As you said, “Every dollar wasted is a dollar we can notspend building the fleet that we need.”
Mr. Secretary, we appreciate the challenges you face. At the endof fiscal year 2009, the Navy had a $3 billion funding shortfallfor sustainment, repair, and modernization projects at the fournaval shipyards. In December 2009, the Navy’s total shoreinfrastructure backlog had reached $36.6 billion. Furthermore,despite your goal of a fleet composed of 313 combat ships, the Navyis today at only 70 percent of that number. The CongressionalBudget Office’s May 2010 analysis of the Navy’slong-range shipbuilding plan projects costs that are 37 percenthigher than the Navy’s estimates for the plan’s final10 years.
Your comments at the Current Strategy Forum are fitting: "In theend, it’s about using our resources a lot more wisely.Because the long-term ability of the Navy and Marine Corps tosupport America’s broader foreign policy objectives, toremain the strategic leader in the world ... depends on our abilityto adequately resource our fleet."
Any decision to expend scarce resources to homeport anuclear-powered aircraft carrier at NS Mayport must be consideredwithin this context. Is it more important to create a duplicative,expensive homeporting capability than it is to build two or threeadditional Littoral Combat Ships? Is it more important to buildredundant nuclear maintenance facilities at NS Mayport than it isto properly maintain and recapitalize the Navy’s four agingand increasingly antiquated naval shipyards?
We think not and hope that you will share our convictions. Forthese reasons, we urge you to cancel the proposal to establish aduplicative and unnecessary nuclear-powered aircraft carrierhomeport at NS Mayport and direct that programmed resources beallocated to other higher priority Navy requirements.
Senator Jim Webb
Senator Mark Warner
Representative Glenn Nye
Representative Bobby Scott
Representative Randy Forbes
Representative Rob Wittman
The Hon. Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense
Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations
The Hon. Robert Work, Under Secretary of the Navy
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