The Florida Delegation to Washington may not agree on all things. But in a Monday letter signed by all members, they urged Defense Secretary James Mattis to homeport a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, or CVN, at Mayport.
The case the delegation made was for “spreading out” America’s Naval assets.
“As you continue your work on the fiscal year 2018 budget request for the Department of Defense (DoD), we urge you to include the funding necessary to complete the U.S. Navy’s stated requirements for strategic dispersal of capital ships by making Naval Station Mayport capable of homeporting a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier,” the delegation wrote.
Currently, assets are too concentrated elsewhere, the delegation contends.
“Our Navy overleverages risk to our carrier fleet by having only one CVN homeport on the Eastern seaboard. Not only are our operational CVN in jeopardy, but our future capital ships under construction are practically co-located, risking tens of billions of dollars of assets as well as our ability to project power abroad now and in the future.”
Given recent reports of Russian ships prowling just off American shores, this argument has real salience.
Arguments for Mayport are not new, the delegation reminds Mattis: “Originally endorsed in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, each subsequent Navy Secretary and Chief of Naval Operations has repeatedly validated this decision.”
The Navy had signaled an intention to bring CVN to Mayport as early as 2019, the congressman note. But so far, nothing.
“Strategic dispersal of our capital ships is a long held Navy requirement. The risks to our current and future carrier fleet far exceed the one-time costs of making Mayport CVN capable,” the delegation adds.
Rep. John Rutherford noted, via statement, that “making Mayport capable of homeporting nuclear aircraft carriers is exactly the type of strategic action needed to enhance our sailors’ capabilities. Mayport is a critical part of the Navy’s mission and future, and I am grateful that our state delegation is fully committed to Mayport’s critical role in our national security.”
Local expectations have been dashed since 2010 on this front, with the Obama era not being one of military expansionism.
Despite encouraging signs in the Quadrennial Defense Review, by 2013 the Jacksonville Daily Record reported a reliable source saying that such a move wouldn’t happen this decade.
However, this is a new era, one with a president committed to expanding and modernizing the fleet.
President Donald Trump referenced Mayport in a speech before the November election, saying it would be an important part of his 350-ship Navy.
But he made no specific commitments to whether Mayport would see more littoral ships or the kind of vessels for which the delegation clamors.