Governor, General Air Case to Keep Bases; Lawmakers Get Briefing on Some of Florida's Strategy on Bases, Carrier Kennedy

Article excerpt

A retired four-star general and Gov. Jeb Bush outlined to state lawmakers Wednesday some of Florida's strategy on keeping its military assets, including the Jacksonville-based USS John F. Kennedy.

Florida's lawmakers in Washington, including U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez and U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw of Jacksonville, have led the fight against one of the Pentagon's proposed budget cuts: reducing the carrier force by retiring the aircraft carrier based at Mayport Naval Station next year.

Despite a lack of political muscle in the nation's capital where Florida is represented by two first-term senators, the governor believes national defense concerns will carry the day in the final analysis.

"A parochial case is expected, a national security case is respected," Bush said about Mayport's easy access to the Atlantic Ocean. "In the case of Mayport, for example, we have a compelling national security case. The port . . . that can get the troops, the sailors, out to sea . . . the carriers themselves, is in Mayport.

"Norfolk takes hours. It's an inland port," Bush added, noting that the Navy has two carrier ports on the East Coast.

However, state Rep. Stan Jordan, R-Jacksonville, chairman of the Florida House Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs, said in a phone interview that retired Air Force Gen. B.J. Davis told the committee the Kennedy is a Defense Department budget issue, not a direct BRAC issue.

Under the BRAC legislation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is expected to publish by May 16 the list of bases to be closed or realigned during the process.

Co-chairman of Bush's advisory council on BRAC, Davis said it will be a highly competitive effort to safeguard Florida's 21 military installations and three unified commands during this round of BRAC, according to Jordan. …