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Senator Martinez Fires Another Shot in the Mayport Carrier Battle

2:27 PM, Apr 28, 2009   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC -- The debate over the future of Mayport as a homeport for a nuclear carrier continues.

Today, Florida Senator Mel Martinez made a plea for resolution.

Sen. Martinez went to the top...the Secretary of the Navy-designate.

Former Mississippi Governor Ray Mabus has been named to the post by President Obama, and is awaiting Senate confirmation.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Martinez took the time to stress the importance of the Navy going forward with its plan to upgrade Mayport so it will be nuclear-ready and the nation's carrier fleet will be strategically dispersed.

The battle for the carrier has gone back and forth for months.

The East Coast is home to five aircraft carriers, all homeported in Norfolk, Virginia.

Florida's leaders believe one of those five should be moved to Mayport, which has been without a carrier since the USS John F. Kennedy was decommissioned.

Florida's delegation cites strategy and the local economy as its main reasons for supporting the move.

Senator Bill Nelson refers back to Pearl Harbor in 1941, when a single attack crippled the Navy's entire Pacific fleet.  Nelson says a single attack, or even sinking a ship in the channel leading to Norfolk would do the same thing today, so there needs to be another option.

Virginia's delegation is strongly opposed to the move.

They cite the cost of upgrading Mayport as a reason to maintain the status quo.

The USS John F. Kennedy was a conventionally-powered carrier, so it didn't need the same facilities a nuclear carrier needs.

Mayport would require dredging the channel considerably deeper, since the newer carriers are larger than the Kennedy.

It would also need security upgrades and facilities for handling nuclear fuel.

The cost of the upgrades is estimated at $671 million.

As recently as late March, the Navy said it was going to move a carrier to Mayport, despite rumors to the contrary and continued opposition from Virginia's delegation.

In early April, the Pentagon announced it is postponing the move, and the Obama administration is going to reconsider it.

First Coast News

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