NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - A political struggle over a Navy carrier has turned into a warof words.
The Defense Department says it wants to move an East Coastcarrier to Florida, and a Senator from that state has already askedthe Navy to name that carrier.
Currently, Naval Station Norfolk is home to all five East Coastcarriers.
And while Florida lawmakers are pushing hard to make the carriermove a reality, Virginia Senator Jim Webb says he'll fight everystep of the way to keep that from happening.
Even though Naval Station Mayport in Florida would not be fullynuclear carrier capable for another three or four years, FloridaSenator Bill Nelson says dredging is already underway - and hewants to keep moving forward - including having the Navy name thecarrier it wants to move.
"We can bring the carrier here for ports of call," said Nelson,"further identifying Jacksonville, eventually, as the homeport ofthis carrier along with 4,000 sailors and all their families."
But Virginia's lawmakers will not support the billion dollars infunding it would take for the move. In a written statement, Sen.Webb said "Instead of putting this billion dollars into a redundantfacility, the Navy should put it into building two more ships."
Frank Roberts of the Hampton Roads Military and FederalFacilities Alliance agrees with Webb.
"Beyond ship building, the Navy has a looming strike fighteraircraft shortfall," said Roberts. "They have about a three billiondollar backlog in ship repair and maintenance requirements."
Senator Nelson says the Navy's decision to move a carrier toMayport shows that a second east coast carrier location is also acrucial need.
"Getting a half a billion dollars in this fiscal environmentover the next five years is no easy task," said Nelson, "but wewill get it done because it's the right thing to do."
Roberts' nonprofit group exists to protect and sustain militarycapabilities in the region. But he, like Virginia's congressionaldelegation, believes the fight to keep carriers at Naval StationNorfolk goes beyond what's good for the region - to what's good forthe Navy - and the nation.
"It's about fiscal responsibility in a time of economicdownturn," he said.
While Sen. Nelson says he would love for Florida to get the newUSS George H.W Bush, the Navy has yet to indicate which carrier isslated to move.
Senator Webb believes the carrier decision is not final - andcould be revised once it's time to actually pay for a move.
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