NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — As of Friday afternoon, there is an empty spot at the piers at Naval Station Norfolk, a space that won’t be filled for quite some time. 10 On Your Side is here to explain what this means to both the Navy and Hampton Roads.
After calling Norfolk home since 1998, the USS Donald Cook will now tie up in Rota, Spain.The ship’s new homeport is part of President Obama’s commitment to NATO’s Ballistic Missile Defense Initiative. But Hampton Roads will miss the destroyer and her crew — and not just for sentimental reasons.
“Our bread and butter is to be at the right place at the right time,” said Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, CO Carrier Strike Group 8. “And the Donald Cook is at the leading edge of phase one to begin to provide a regional missile defense capability in the Mediterranean Sea.”
The decision to move the Cook to the Mediterranean stems from an agreement reached at the 2011 NATO Summit in Lisbon. That agreement is known as the “Phased Adaptive Approach” to Ballistic Missile Defense of Europe.
The Cook is the first of three Norfolk-based destroyers that will be forward deployed to Rota. But the ship will be taking more than technology and Sailors with her. Ship repair work once performed by Hampton Rods ship yards, will now be done over-seas.
“We actually have a contractor in place in Spain who will be conducting the normal maintenance repairs on us,” said Cmdr. Scott Jones, CO USS Donald Cook.
WAVY.com asked Gilday if the United States is going to help subsidize some of the funding for these Spanish ship repair facilities in order to be able to take care of these highly advanced American vessels.
“I don’t have any insight on what the exact agreement is in terms of cost-burden,” he said.
According to Virginia’s Representative from the fourth District, Randy Forbes, Congress is lacking specifics of the deal as well.
“At this particular point in time, the Navy has not officially disclosed that information to us, and we are currently making inquires,” Forbes said.
“Spain says we’re getting $246 million for ship repair of those four ships,” said retired Rear Admiral Fred Metz.
According to Metz, the economic impact of the move will be felt in other areas of the local economy.
“Hampton Roads Planning Commission has come up with a number,” he said. “When a ship the size of Cook leaves, that’s 500 jobs that leave the area. Not the sailors, but that’s jobs … ”
And with two more destroyers leaving Norfolk, that’s 1,500 jobs.
For more information, you can look through the Hampton Roads Planning Commission’s report — just click here. Page 30 of the report has information about employment numbers and maintenance funding.