Florida delegation requests funding for nuclear aircraft carrier

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Could one of Hampton Road’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers be transferred to the Sunshine state? If the Florida Congressional Delegation has its way, the answer is yes.

Florida’s congressional delegation sent their request to the Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley asking for additional funding. The letter spells out their desire for funding for Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville to build a nuclear capable port to house a carrier. And it’s not a new request.

In 2009, the Navy decided to move a carrier from Hampton Roads to Mayport and several Virginia politicians were against it.

The views are similar after this latest request.

Congressman Robert Wittman sent 10 On Your Side the following statement about the request:

“I think it is inconceivable to consider spending almost a billion dollars on replicating a capability that already exists in Norfolk. In times of emergency, there are a multitude of ports available on the East Coast to support an aircraft carrier.  Furthermore, deep carrier maintenance would still be at Newport News. As I consider options as to how to build a 355 ship Navy, I can think of any number of other critical investments  that are more important to the warfighter than building redundant infrastructure in Mayport.”

Senator Mark Warner also released a statement, which reads, “The laydown of ships, including carriers, should be considered as part of a broader discussion about our overall strategic posture – especially in light of the Administration’s proposals to significantly increase the size of the Navy’s fleet. Our current laydown, which favors the Pacific, does not reflect the new strategic picture, which increasingly points to Russia as the source of likely threats. It would be wildly premature to consider where a single carrier should be homeported until there has been a comprehensive analysis and broad-based discussion about those strategic goals.”

10 On Your Side reached out to Craig Quigley, the Executive Director of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance, who provided insight as well:

“The killer in the deal, I believe was the incredible cost of creating infrastructure in Mayport that can sustain a nuclear powered warship,” said Quigley. “The obvious economic impact is considerable, each carrier has a crew of about 3200 sailors and lots of maintenance for a shop of that size. This is an infrastructure that has been bought and paid for and matured for decades here in hampton Roads and to repeat that process – is that really the best use of taxpayer dollars?”

Quigley says that equates to jobs, and losing it could be a hit for Hampton Roads.

In the letter, the combined Florida delegation touches on that, writing, “We understand the realities of the fiscal environment. Our Navy over leverages risk to our carrier fleet by having only one CVN homeport on the Eastern Seaboard.”

The last time Naval Station Mayport had an aircraft carrier was the John F. Kennedy, and it was decommissioned a decade ago.

10 On Your Side is waiting to hear back from the U.S. Navy Office of Information.