Northeast Florida’s legislative delegation is confident a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is coming to Mayport, despite opposition from their Virginia counterparts. And if everything works out right, the Navy’s newest carrier, the soon-to-be-commissioned George H. W. Bush, could be here in about a year, according to Rep. Ander Crenshaw.
Crenshaw, Rep. Corrine Brown and Sens. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez were at the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning to brief the chamber’s military affairs committee about the Navy’s decision last week to homeport a nuclear carrier at Mayport. The decision has been criticized by Virginia’s legislative delegation, including Sens. Jim Webb and John Warner.
The Florida delegation has made no secret of its preference that the Navy send the George H. W. Bush, which will be commissioned in January, to Mayport. Crenshaw said the decision on where to homeport the new carrier could be made the same day it is commissioned, which will be Jan. 10.
Crenshaw outlined a best-case scenario in which the Bush is homeported in Mayport and reaches the area within a year, after dredging of the channel is done.
“If the dredging could be done in a year, it could be here in a year,” Crenshaw said.
The nuclear facility that will have to be built at Mayport to service a nuclear carrier would take a few more years to finish, Crenshaw said, but conceivably could be done in time for the first scheduled maintenance of the Bush in 2012.
The goal of Tuesday’s session with the chamber and a subsequent news conference was to provide reassurance that the Virginia delegation will not be able to derail plans to move a carrier to Mayport. The Florida delegation has been stressing that the Navy will be safer if it disperses its East Coast carrier fleet, an argument echoed by the commander of the recently re-established U.S. Fourth Fleet based at Mayport.
“The compelling argument here is national security,” said Rear Adm. Joseph Kernan. “It had nothing to do with politics, it had nothing to do with the economy.”
The Navy announced last week that its preference is to base a nuclear carrier in Mayport. The official recommendation from the Secretary of the Navy to the Secretary of Defense is due Dec. 21.
I would think that the Fourth Fleet is going to need an aircraft carrier.