NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. -- Sen. Bill Nelson today detailed the defense bill that passed the Senate with near-unanimous support late Thursday.
Nelson said the bill, which passed 99-1 despite months of "silly partisan games," includes money to help get the Naval station ready for an aircraft carrier and a plan to make sure there is no gap after the frigates move out to make way for the Navy's newest ships.
Nelson said the 11 frigates homeported at Mayport are scheduled to leave Mayport by 2015, and the replacement Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) were not scheduled to arrive until 2016.
He said today he doesn't want to see a year where Mayport doesn't have either of the ships, specifically because of the repair work they bring to the First Coast.
"You just don't realize how many people are employed and what a vital industry the ship repair business is that has built up as a result of all of the ships coming in and out of U.S. Naval Station Mayport," Nelson said.
Nelson said he included a provision in the Senate's bill to eliminate the gap any of three ways: either by extending the frigates beyond 2015, bringing in the LCS before 2016, or by the Navy bringing additional ship repair work to Mayport in the interim.
Frigates, Nelson said, each carry 210 crew members. With 11 frigates at Mayport, that means 2310 Navy personnel are associated with the ships.
There are 17 LCS scheduled to replace the frigates, according to Nelson, each of which carries two complements of 115, meaning the 2310 frigate crew would be replaced on the First Coast by 3910 with the LCS.
He also sang the praises of the Littoral Combat Ships. "They are something else...state of the art, much higher speed, much shallower draft."
Additionally, Nelson said the bill includes $15 million to widen Massey Avenue at Naval Station Mayport to allow for the increased traffic that a nuclear aircraft carrier would provide, further evidence that the Navy's plan to move a carrier from Norfolk, Virginia, to Mayport is still in effect.
The next step for the bill is to go to the House of Representatives, where, "We will hammer out the compromise," Nelson said, insisting the provisions he discussed today would stay in the final bill.
First Coast News