NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - Hampton Roads took another shot across the bow Wednesday in its efforts to keep a Norfolk-based aircraft carrier from moving to Florida.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus was in Norfolk to serve as the Keynote Speaker at the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce's Annual Meeting.
Most of his address was no surprise. Like his boss, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Mabus spoke about tightening the Pentagon budget.
"Secretary Gates has charged the services with finding a 100 billion dollars over the next five years in efficiencies," said Mabus, "and everything, everything has to be on the table."
Mabus may have provided a glimpse of his approach to trimming the Navy's budget when he referred to his father's approach to running the family business in a small town in Mississippi.
"People have called him frugal and careful," said Mabus. "While I was growing up, I called him cheap. And I am my father's son."
The Secretary's candor did not go unmatched. During a question and answer period he was asked if Hampton Roads can expect to continue as the only homeport for the Atlantic aircraft carrier fleet. The woman asking the question was blunt.
"Just quick yes or no would do," she said.
"Okay, no," answered Mabus.
The Navy Secretary said he expected that question, and added that the decision to move a carrier to Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Fla., is vital to national security.
"We have to disperse our carrier fleet," said Mabus. "And if I was sitting where you were I would be, I would be asking the same question and probably disagreeing with this answer."
Although the head of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce was not surprised by Secretary Mabus maintaining the administration's position on the carrier move, President and CEO Jack Hornbeck says the fight is far from over.
"There's an awful lot of things that would have to occur before we ever get to the point of saying farewell to an aircraft carrier from Hampton Roads," said Hornbeck.
At this time, Mayport does not have the facilities to accommodate a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Virginia officials contend that if the Pentagon's goal is to save money, building a redundant facility is not the best use of limited funds.
Mabus was also asked about the proposed closure of the Norfolk-based Joint Forces Command (JFCOM).
He said that decision made above his "pay-grade," but that careful thought and analysis had gone into the Defense Secretary Gates' recommendation to close JFCOM.
State officials say construction on a new Bonner Bridge has been delayed for years because of a legal battle with an environmental group.
The Coast Guard transported two people off Hatteras Island early Thursday morning following the sudden closure of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge Tuesday.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation says dredging beneath the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge will likely begin Friday afternoon.