Navy willing to make trade-offs to move carrier to Florida

The Navy is willing to make trade-offs to pay for its strategic decision to move a nuclear aircraft carrier to Florida, according Rear Adm. Bill Burke, who ran the Navy’s portion of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).

Burke told reporters this week that the QDR, a sweeping review of military strategy and capability, reached the same decision the Navy reached a year ago, because it makes “good sense.”  It also made “good sense” at the highest levels of the Pentagon, Burke added. 

To pay for the move, the Navy could have to make some tough financial decisions down the line. Burke did not specify what those trade-offs would be.

The Virginia and Florida delegations are fighting over the proposed move of a nuclear aircraft carrier from Virginia to Florida.  The QDR says that one aircraft carrier should be based in the Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Fla. “to mitigate the risk of a terrorist attack, accident or natural disaster.”

Norfolk, Va. is currently the only homeport for aircraft carriers assigned to the East Coast. The Navy had already decided that it wanted to send a nuclear aircraft carrier to Florida, but the Virginia delegation has fought to stop that decision and extracted a promise from Pentagon leaders to study the issue as part of the QDR.

But now that the QDR conclusion is the same as the Navy’s, the congressional fight will center around the funding for all the projects needed to prepare Mayport to house a nuclear aircraft carrier.

“The president’s budget request will have to be authorized and appropriated by the Congress; and my colleagues and I in the Virginia delegation have been working assiduously all year to make sure that these key strategic questions are addressed and also that these funding issues are balanced out,” Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), a defense authorizer, said in a press release this week.

Burke also stressed that when the decision to move an aircraft carrier to Florida was made there was no specific threat to either Norfolk or Mayport that played into the decision.