U.S. Rep. Forbes removes $30M for Mayport carrier move
U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes is head of the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.
By Bill Bartel
© May 5, 2011
U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes flexed his new clout as a subcommittee chairman Wednesday, unveiling a defense spending bill that excludes $30 million intended to help move a Norfolk-based aircraft carrier to Mayport, Fla.
The Chesapeake Republican is head of the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, which meets today to begin reviewing a spending plan that would allocate $275.8 billion for military construction and the operation and maintenance of the military's equipment and bases.
The readiness bill also includes $500 million more for ship construction and repairs than had been requested by the Obama administration, Forbes said.
The administration had requested $30 million to help pay for construction and other preparations related to moving a carrier to Mayport Naval Station near Jacksonville. The subcommittee's proposal, which is the starting point for a large chunk of the defense budget, made clear that no money should go toward the carrier relocation.
The legislation states that none of the readiness funds "may be used for architectural and engineering services and construction design of any military construction project necessary to establish a homeport for a nuclear-powered carrier" at the Florida base.
Navy officials, with the support of Florida federal legislators, have been working to establish a second East Coast homeport for nuclear-powered carriers at May-port Naval Station, arguing that dispersing the carrier fleet would protect it from natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
Forbes and other Virginia members of Congress have opposed the move, arguing that the Pentagon has failed to provide specific analysis to back up their concerns.
Local lawmakers also are concerned that Hampton Roads might eventually lose two carriers to Florida if Mayport were converted to a nuclear base.
Losing even one carrier would be a major economic blow to the region, Hampton Roads leaders have said. Experts estimated each carrier provides 6,000 jobs and about $425 million in annual revenue. The Navy has said it wants to move a carrier no sooner than 2019, but Florida leaders are trying to speed up the relocation.
The readiness budget, which is the largest of several 2012 defense budget bills, undergoes a "markup" hearing today, when any of the 21 subcommittee members can make amendments. With no Florida legislators on the panel, Forbes doesn't anticipate changes to the Mayport exclusion.
If approved, the bill will go to the entire 62-member Armed Services Committee, which has four legislators from Florida and three from Virginia.
For Florida to add the funding, its lawmakers would have to make a case to the full committee that the relocation needs to be put back into the budget, Forbes said.
"It basically shifts the burden of proof to them," he said.
U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., whose district includes Mayport, indicated the legislative battle is far from over.
"At a time when our nation is faced with serious and pertinent national security challenges, my colleagues from Virginia wish to debate an issue that has already been thoroughly reviewed and decided," Crenshaw said Wednesday.
"The Navy has spoken, the Department of Defense has spoken, and Congress has spoken," he said. "The decision is clear - the Navy needs two East Coast nuclear carrier homeports. Make no mistake, I will fight against this latest game to deny Mayport its funding."
Forbes said the subcommittee's proposal also adds back in $500 million in ship construction and maintenance projects that were not included in the president's budget requests. The extra spending is coming from other defense accounts, he said.
Where those funds might be spent will depend on where the Navy does the work, but Forbes said he expects that a large portion would come to Hampton Roads.
In addition, the readiness budget bill includes $183 million in military construction projects in South Hampton Roads that were part of the Obama administration's request for the 2012 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
They include $81 million for new housing at Norfolk Naval Station for sailors who are single and $75 million for a controlled industrial facility at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth.
Bill Bartel, (757) 446-2398, email@example.com