NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Three Hampton Roads members of congress addressed a crowd of Navy stakeholders at an event Tuesday at the Marriott Waterside sponsored by the Navy League.
The panel included Vice Chair of the House Armed Services Committee Elaine Luria (D-Va. 2nd), committee member Rob Wittman (R-Va. 1st), and Bobby Scott (D-Va. 3rd). Also attending was State Sen. Jen Kiggans (R-Va. 7th) who will oppose Luria for the midterm election in November.
Luria put several amendments in the current House version of the defense budget that would benefit Hampton Roads, including nearly $4 billion for shipbuilding and maintenance, and nearly $3 billion for additional Navy aircraft.
Retired commander Luria also spoke about Navy quality of life and the mental health issues that have plagued the USS George Washington. The carrier has been docked for refueling and overhaul for more than five years.
“For the foreseeable future, we’re always gonna have at least one ship in Newport News going through that process,” she said. “From visits to the ship, we learned so much about quality of life issues related to where they’re living off the ship, the proximity, the parking, the hours of commute.”
Kiggans is a Navy veteran helicopter pilot, and says mental health resources are vital.
“I’m a nurse practitioner so I provide a lot of mental health care on the primary health care level. So that mental health piece is very important to me. I care about the mental health of our active duty military.”
Luria’s amendments call for a total of $37 billion extra in the Pentagon’s budget, money she says will be important to Hampton Roads.
“We’ve addressed a lot of the things that deal with future force structure of the Navy and how many ships we’re gonna build.”
“We’ve got to provide for the needs of the Navy,” Kiggans said. “That means having enough resources to not only build ships but to repair our ships effectively and efficiently.”
The defense budget still has a few steps to go – parallel versions will go before the full House and Senate for approval and then on to President Biden.