- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 22, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama takes office.

Sens. Norfolk is “strategically flawed and fiscally irresponsible.”

The Navy estimates that the move would cost at least $600 million, but the Virginia officials said the total could approach $1 billion.

They argued that the money could be better spent on the more than $4.6 billion in higher-priority, unfunded Navy budget requirements, including a $791 million backlog in restoration and modernization projects at the nation’s four naval shipyards.

That total includes $224 million in renovations needed at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, which already has the capacity for repair and maintenance of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

The Navy confirmed Monday that Mayport would be listed as the preferred location for the new nuclear carrier when the service releases an environmental impact study on the project Friday.

The Navy said it chose Florida in order to spread out its Atlantic Fleet beyond Norfolk. But Mr. Warner and Mr. Webb, both former secretaries of the Navy and members of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, said Thursday that the Florida base offers no strategic advantage over Norfolk.

“Moving a carrier to Mayport does very little to mitigate risk to the carrier fleet,” said Mr. Warner, a Republican retiring at the end of this term. “And the tremendous costs associated with such a move merely duplicate existing capabilities at other naval stations.”

Mr. Warner and Mr. Webb, a Democrat, sent Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates a letter Wednesday evening asking him to delay the plan “until the new administration is able to evaluate the Navy’s decision with greater analytical rigor than the Navy has demonstrated.”

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, said the move should not be made in the president’s “eleventh hour,” especially at a time when the economy is in trouble.

“Considering the impacts of the financial crisis on all budgets and the realistic costs of moving the nuclear carrier and developing the necessary infrastructure for a possible new placement, why should the nation incur an unnecessary cost?” he said.

Work on the carrier and preparations of the port, including deepening the channel by as much as 15 feet, could take four to five years.

The Navy has not selected a name for the Mayport carrier. The Kitty Hawk, the Navy’s last conventionally powered aircraft carrier, was decommissioned in May and replaced by the USS George Washington, a nuclear-powered vessel.

The Navy re-established its 4th Fleet, which was disbanded after World War II, in July and based it at Mayport. The 4th Fleet is in charge of directing South America.

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