Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville's 'Done Deal' Still a Battle; A Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier Is Slated for Mayport ... but Virginia Isn't Giving Up

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville's 'Done Deal' Still a Battle; A Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier Is Slated for Mayport ... but Virginia Isn't Giving Up

Article excerpt

Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS

Three times now local politicians have hailed the Navy's decision to base a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier at Mayport Naval Station as a "done deal."

Nevertheless, recent rhetoric in Washington sounds like it's from 18 months ago, the first time the Navy said Mayport would be nuclearized.

"This discussion is clearly not over," U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said recently during a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing, his comments squashed between remarks from Florida's two senators - both of whom begged to differ.

"At some point we ought to understand that the decision has been made, and it's been made for the purposes of securing the national defense," U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said during the committee meeting.

Later, U.S. Sen. George LeMieux noted that everyone who needed to had contributed to the decision. "The U.S. Navy views this as important to our national security," he said. "Both the Bush and Obama administrations have weighed in with their full support."

A few weeks ago, the Quadrennial Defense Review proffered what is supposed to be the final answer when it said a carrier would be based at Mayport.

Final answer or not, the discussion arguably won't be over for years, until the naval station has taken several steps down the road toward having a carrier tied up pierside.

That may be a long road: According to internal budgeting documents, the Navy isn't looking to spend the $150 million needed to start building the controlled industrial facility - a 3 1/2-year project - until 2015.

If the Navy waits to bring a ship to Mayport until all the work is done, as it as said it will, that means no carrier until 2018 or 2019.

The dates and exact figures in that planning document are subject to change, with movement within the five-year planning horizon not uncommon.

Whatever happens in those future years, it looks like the first steps may be taken in the coming fiscal year. Among the $56 million the Navy wants to use for planning and design in 2011, $2 million is slated for nailing down the details of nuclearizing Mayport.

"The planning and design are really like the foundation," said U. …

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