Florida Mounts New Raid on Virginia Carrier Fleet

U.S.S. George Washington arrives in Virginia for almost-cancelled overhaul (Huntington Ingalls Photo)

Here we go again.  Florida wants one of Virginia’s aircraft carriers. U.S. Sen. Mark Rubio, R-Fla., and others are apparently trying once again to authorize the Mayport naval base to make the improvements it would need to become home port for one of the eleven jewels of the fleet. Virginia’s congressional delegation is gearing up to fight off the idea for the third time in a decade.

In a recent joint letter they wrote that limited defense funds shouldn’t be spent on “a non-existent requirement and duplicative capability that will cost the Navy nearly $1 billion over 15 years.” Right now five carriers sail out of Norfolk and one is being overhauled in Newport News.

The official position of Huntington Ingalls Industries, parent company of Newport News Shipbuilding, will probably be no position. The line has been that the company builds and maintains the ships and where the customer chooses to park them is none of the company’s business. But expect the rest of Virginia and Hampton Roads to care deeply, because along with the personnel who serve on the ship there are hundreds more support jobs ashore, and all of the economic benefit created by those many thousands of sailors and dependents.

It is a little dance the Florida and Virginia politicians do, burnishing their images with the home folks. We are probably seeing another attempt because the White House has changed hands. You might think these are weapons systems vital to the world’s stability, but we all know they are also political boodle of the highest order. Michael Dukakis sank his chances in Virginia in 1988 by proposing to cancel two carriers.

The total cost of the upgrade to the Florida base to host a carrier full time would approach $600 million, given the special facilities tied to its nuclear reactors. This apparently would defend us against the dangerous naval threat posed by, what, Venezuela? Brazil? Cuba is within easy reach of land based squadrons. There is no strong argument for moving a carrier to Florida except to boost Florida.

Norfolk likely will lose a carrier one day but it will go to the Pacific. And when the Pentagon is ready to make that move, adding to the five carriers now based in California, Washington and Japan, Virginia’s political class needs to drop its objections. That will be based on sound strategic requirements, unless of course President Trump makes a Glorious Peace with Dear Leaders Kim and Xi.

There also remains a chance Norfolk will lose a carrier because the Navy stops building them or chooses not to overhaul one and puts it in mothballs instead, as almost happened to the U.S.S. George Washington (CNV 73, pictured above). Given the total cost of ownership of a carrier strike group, that threat will not go away.

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5 responses to “Florida Mounts New Raid on Virginia Carrier Fleet”

  1. djrippert Avatar

    Until the Navy commissions the USS John Cena I think the USS George Washington needs to stay in Virginia.

  2. Alternate headline for this post, ripped straight from the copy: Political Boodle of the Highest Order.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    And the ” Political Boodle of the Highest Order” will argue that Virginia has gotten too much of it for too long AND it’s a single point of failure – and that
    argument will be well received by a substantial number in Congress.

    One more reason, Virginia needs to get it’s own economic development act in order..

    Relying on deficit-funded aircraft carriers to sustain Virginia.. why that’s as bad as those NoVa Yahoos prancing around and yammering about how NoVa sustains the rest of Virginia with it’s deficit-financed economy !!!

  4. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Hey! The first aircraft launch from a ship took place in Hampton Roads. It’s one of the world’s great harbors, with the deep channels needed for those ships. And the repair shop is within sight of the Navy base – you can actually see the big blue crane while standing on a ship at the pier. It’s our boodle! 🙂

  5. CleanAir&Water Avatar

    “There is no strong argument for moving a carrier to Florida … Norfolk likely will lose a carrier one day but it will go to the Pacific.”

    Oh dear, you are forgetting one very big thing …Climate Change and rising seas.
    “Climate change poses an immediate threat to Norfolk. The seas are rising at twice the global average here, due to ocean currents and geology. … … The Union of Concerned Scientists did its own analysis and determined that with sea level rise of just 1.4 feet, the base’s low-lying areas would flood about 280 times each year, spending 10 percent of the time underwater.”

    ” A detailed study in 2014 by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center identified about 1.5 feet of sea level rise as a ‘tipping point’ for the base that would dramatically increase the risk of serious damage to infrastructure. “

    Many consider a 2017 Army Corp proposal of $1.8B a ‘band aid. To avoid catastrophe,… the base needs a complete overhaul. … The electrical systems, telecommunications, everything is vulnerable.” https://insideclimatenews.org/news/10252017/military-norfolk-naval-base-flooding-climate-change-sea-level-global-warming-virginia

    To give Norfolk some credit … “No one’s as advanced on this work as Norfolk,” said Carlos Martín, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. In particular, he said, Norfolk rewrote its zoning code this year to incorporate resilience to rising seas, adopting measures he described as “kind of miraculous.”

    On a bright day last winter, several dozen executives, architects, military officers and government officials from around the country gathered in a glass room atop Norfolk’s main public library. It was the start of an initiative on coastal innovation, organized by a project of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a local nonprofit that the city of Norfolk created to fund technological solutions to coastal resilience.

    Evidently the DOD though, with all it’s low lying bases, has not stepped up yet and under the current administration it looks like change will only happen when catastrophe occurs.

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