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Reports from two Virginia lawmakers that the transfer of one carrier from Norfolk, Va., to Mayport, Fla., has been delayed five years to 2019 are not accurate, and that 2019 has been the goal for more than a year, a Navy spokesman said.
"The Navy is committed to using Mayport as a second nuclear carrier homeport," service spokesman Lt. Paul Macapagal said. "But that will not happen before the completion of required military construction projects there."
Last week, Rep. Glenn Nye, a Democrat from the Virginia Beach region, said the Navy has delayed its project carrier move from 2014 to 2019. He made his announcement after visiting the Florida base.
"After seeing the lack of capability at Mayport, and knowing what we have here in Norfolk, it's going to take a lot more time and money than the Navy has previously stated to homeport a nuclear carrier here," Nye said in a statement.
Democratic Sen. Jim Webb weighed in last Thursday, saying he had been provided "an official Navy document which states that the earliest an aircraft carrier could be homeported in Mayport is 2019. Given the other needs of the Navy, and the prospect of moving other types of ships to Mayport earlier, it appears that the relocation of an aircraft carrier from Norfolk to Mayport is unlikely to happen."
But 2019 has been the target for some time, Macapagal said.
"The original move date in the Environmental Impact Study was 2014, but that was based on funding all military projects in 2010. The Navy deferred that decision until the [Quadrennial Defense Review] to ensure it was supported."
After that process, the administration's fiscal 2011 budget committed $590 million — spread from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2019 — for necessary upgrades such as dredging and pier improvements. Infrastructure planning and design is to begin in 2011, and construction follows in 2012, Macapagal said.
"The project is scheduled to be completed in 2019. This is not a delay," he said.
Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., on Thursday issued a statement that "nothing has changed" regarding the move. However, he added that the "2019 homeport date is a worst-case scenario and would only occur if each and every step of the process took the longest amount of time possible. Frankly, the Navy would do it faster if there were more money."
Webb and many members of Virginia's congressional delegation have vehemently argued to keep all five East Coast carriers in Norfolk, citing the $1 billion it would cost to upgrade Mayport with a "redundant" nuclear facility. Webb, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee and is a former Navy secretary, also has cited the need for more Navy ships, weapon and aircraft procurement, and the growing maintenance backlog in his opposition to the costly carrier move.
"As long as these strategic necessities remain unfilled, and particularly until our shipbuilding program is on a clear trajectory that will take the Navy back to 313 ships, I will oppose any expenditure toward a nuclear upgrade in Mayport," he said.
Webb has said the new littoral combat ships are better homeporting alternatives for Mayport.
Naval Station Norfolk is the lone East Coast home to nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, with five of the ships based at the world's largest naval base. The proposed move, http://www.navytimes.com/news/2010/01/navy_qdr_012710w/">outlined in the Navy's defense planning document, is based on national security concerns about having all East Coast carriers homeported in Norfolk.
The Hampton Roads region stands to lose 6,000 jobs, 3,500 sailors and their families, and $425 million in annual revenue if a carrier permanently sails to Mayport.
The Jacksonville-area base lost the conventionally powered John F. Kennedy in 2007, when it was decommissioned.
The Associated Press contributed to this report