Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Still a Waiting Game for Carrier; but Mayport Naval Station Should Know by Jan. 5

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Still a Waiting Game for Carrier; but Mayport Naval Station Should Know by Jan. 5

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

A final decision to homeport a nuclear-powered carrier at Mayport Naval Station is unlikely to come before the end of the year, city and federal officials said Monday.

Monday was the first day the secretary of the Navy could have formally approved a recommendation of a flattop for the Jacksonville base.

Members of Florida's congressional delegation have consistently described the much-anticipated decision as a done deal. Harrison Conyers, management officer in the city's military affairs office, said the decision is expected between Dec. 31 and Jan. 5, and that the only thing holding up the signature is "the holidays falling where they are."

U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., issued an e-mail saying the decision is expected to be made "before the end of the year."

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in a letter to a Virginia senator opposed to such a move, indicated he favors a carrier for Mayport.

"As you can appreciate, there is significant national security value in establishing an additional East Coast [carrier] support base," Gates wrote Sen. John Warner. "I consider it appropriate that the Department of the Navy move forward with the Record of Decision."

The 2007 decommissioning of the Mayport-based USS John F. Kennedy left Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia as the only East Coast base where carriers are based. Carriers are also homeported at three domestic Pacific Ocean base.

"Having a single [carrier] homeport has not been considered acceptable on the West Coast and should not be considered acceptable on the East Coast," Gates wrote in his letter to Warner.

But a Navy spokeswoman said neither Gates' letter, an online effort to identify contractors for upgrading Mayport to nuclear-ready status or congressional speculation should be construed as evidence a decision has been made. …

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