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Navy: Cuts could delay ARG's move to Mayport

Feb. 20, 2013 - 02:54PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 20, 2013 - 02:54PM  |  
Budget concerns could delay the arrival of the amphibous transport dock New York in Mayport, Fla. The amphib, part of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, is slated to arrive between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31.
Budget concerns could delay the arrival of the amphibous transport dock New York in Mayport, Fla. The amphib, part of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, is slated to arrive between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. (MC1 Lolita Lewis / Navy)
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Impending budget cuts could delay the move of nearly 3,000 sailors in the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group from Norfolk, Va., to Mayport, Fla.

This is the latest news of potential sailor impacts as Navy officials prepare for $4 billion in sequestration cuts and $4.6 billion in cuts if the military continues to be funded at last year's levels.

The ARG move is still tentatively slated to occur within fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2014. The Navy is "committed to our plan," officials said in a prepared statement.

At the same time, the statement says these home-port changes "could incur delays due to personnel moves, maintenance, and operational schedule changes resulting from sequestration."

To put it simply: The cuts could spell trouble for the planned moves, and the Navy is trying to figure out how much or how little.

The ARG home-port shift includes the amphibious transport dock New York, which has been scheduled to arrive in Mayport between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. The amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima and the dock landing ship Fort McHenry are slated to move in somewhere between July 1 and Sept. 30, 2014, officials said.

A firm date for New York's move has not been announced. There have been no homeport change certificates issued, either documents that allow sailors stationed aboard the ship to begin planning for a new home port.

Setting the date would also allow sailors to begin negotiating orders to the ship and organizing a family move. This process generally begins nine months before a scheduled home-port change and ends with five months to go. The current window for New York's move is a little more than seven months away.

Initially, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus called for the Iwo ARG to move by 2015. In June, he moved up the schedule to 2014, with New York arriving before the end of calendar year 2013.

The possible delays don't surprise but do anger Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., who represents the Mayport area in Congress and sits on the House Appropriations Committee's defense panel.

"As I have said all along, sequestration and a full-year continuing resolution will have drastic impacts on the Navy and all of its bases," he told Navy Times on Wednesday.

"We saw that with the recent cancellation of the USS Truman [deployment] to the Middle East, and I expect that home-port changes will be impacted as well."

The move is in part to make better use of Mayport, which has lost a number of ships and is set to lose more.

The station hasn't received any new ships since the destroyer Farragut arrived in 2006.

As of last August, 19 ships and 5,017 sailors called the base home. In the 1980s, the base boasted two aircraft carriers, 28 combatants and nearly 30,000 sailors.

The base will lose two more frigates next month when the Klakring and Underwood retire.

The base was slated to be upgraded to a nuclear home port, with the expectation of welcoming an aircraft carrier in 2019, but the required construction and the resultant move was delayed indefinitely due to budget constraints that were announced in February 2012.

The Navy said at the time it would "remain committed" to eventually relocating a carrier to the Northern Florida base.

While the base is also expected to be the East Coast hub for the new littoral combat ship, the first of those ships isn't expected to arrive until 2016 at the earliest.

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