NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - The debate about whether or not to move a Norfolk-based aircraftcarrier to Mayport, Florida, has taken another turn with both sidesclaiming some measure of victory.
Virginia Congressman Glenn Nye's office released a statementThursday indicating that the proposed move may be shelved becauseof budget concerns. But at least one Florida Congressman believesthat Nye may be getting a little ahead of himself.
The debate about whether or not to relocate one of the AtlanticFleet carriers from Naval Station Norfolk to Naval Station Mayportcomes down to two issues - national security and a shrinkingdefense budget.
In a meeting of the House Armed Services Committee Thursday,committee member Nye, citing recent remarks by Secretary of DefenseRobert Gates and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, asked Under Secretary ofthe Navy Robert Work about spending cuts for several projects onthe Navy's wish list.
"There are no sacred cows, everything is on the table. Do youagree with that?" asked Nye.
"Yes sir, I do," answered Work.
Nye went on to ask Work if the multi-million dollar price tag tohomeport a carrier in Mayport was fiscally sound. The Navyplans to fund the Mayport project over several years with 2019being the target date for completion.
"This is a cost that we believe is very manageable and does not,in any way, shape or form, take away from any of the other higherpriority goals in the department," Work said.
Florida Congressman Ander Crenshaw sits on the HouseAppropriations Committee, which just approved $2 million inplanning and design funds to make Mayport 'nuclear ready.' Thefunding was approved after Under Secretary Work testified about therisks of having all the nation's east coast carriers in one port.Referring to the statement released by Nye, Crenshaw released hisown to 10 On Your Side on Friday.
"My Virginia colleague presents an out of context and distortedpresentation of the facts," Crenshaw said in his statement. "It'smisleading and truly amazing."
Nye was quick to respond.
"First of all, there is no mention of Mayport in theappropriations bill," said Nye. "Also, the proposal to put moneyinto a redundant homeport down in Florida was made without anyspecific analysis done and this is something that the GAO report Iordered last year showed very clearly."
But Crenshaw remains confident that the Navy's desire to spreadout the east coast carriers will rule the day saying, "In my book,members of the Virginia delegation have even less of a leg to standon this year than they did last year."
All indications are that the Navy's leadership remains intent onmoving a carrier to Mayport, in the interest of national security.But estimates for the total cost of that move are around $590million. And even though the cost would be spread out over severalyears, the current budget constraints mean both sides can expect acontinued tough fight.
A Pentagon spokesperson tells WAVY.com the Navy remainscommitted to dispersing the East coast carriers in the interest ofnational security.
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