The uphill battle to bring a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to Mayport Naval Station continued Thursday when U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking for funding in 2019 to help make the dream a reality.
The Navy promised to bring a nuclear carrier to Mayport in 2009 after decommissioning the USS John F. Kennedy two years earlier. The conventionally powered Kennedy was the last carrier to call Mayport home.
But the project came to a halt in 2012 when President Barack Obama released a budget that didn’t include the funds necessary to continue modifications to the Mayport basin.
The latest request from Nelson, D-Fla., and Rubio, R-Fla., comes after the state’s entire congressional delegation sent a letter to the Department of Defense in March asking to include funding for the project in the 2018 budget.
The money was not included in this year’s budget, so Nelson and Rubio are trying again.
“Strategic dispersal of our capital ships is a long-held Navy requirement and only prudent considering the cost and strategic value to our national defense,” the letter said. “The urgency of dispersing our East Coast fleet should not be underestimated.”
The senators are referring to the fact that all carriers on the East Coast are based in Virginia.
The wording of Thursday’s letter was very similar to the one sent last year by the Florida delegation, and the Navy’s response was not the one the politicians were hoping for.
“Current fiscal constraints require the Navy to defer investing in another East Coast nuclear-powered aircraft carrier home port,” said Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Day of the Navy Office of Information in the fall. “U.S. Navy long-range planners constantly evaluate whether ships, aircraft and equipment are being used effectively and efficiently, balancing capability, cost and resiliency.”
Thursday’s letter is the latest attempt to change the Navy’s mind.
“We appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to working with you to ensure the DOD’s budget in Fiscal Year 2019 reflects this urgency,” Thursday’s letter said.
The Navy has repeatedly insisted Mayport’s new squadron of littoral combat ships and its amphibious ready group are enough to ensure the base’s relevance well into the future.
Joe Daraskevich: (904) 359-4308