‘Not a done deal’

Published 10:50 pm Thursday, February 11, 2010

A move that was heavily discussed, rumored and likely to happen finally took place last week as the Department of Defense issued its Quadrennial Defense Review, which called for moving of an East Coast-based aircraft carrier from Norfolk to a facility in Mayport, Fla.

Aside from the significant economic impact such a move would have on the Hampton Roads area, members of area’s Congressional delegation are saying the proposed move does not make fiscal sense in the federal budget and are “disappointed” in the contradictions contained in the review.

“One the one hand, the review calls for a billon dollars to be spent in building a ‘redundant’ facility that would transfer a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to Mayport, Fla.,” Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) said in a release Thursday afternoon. “On the other, DOD (Department of Defense) and the Navy claim they must continue to grow the size of the Navy from its current level of 287 ships to a minimum of 313 combatants.”

Email newsletter signup

The Mayport facility is currently unable to support a facility and would require major upgrades at a cost Webb and U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) say would be well above $1 billion.

“I intend to demand full transparency into the decision making behind this proposed use of up to a billion of taxpayer dollars on a move regarded as duplicative and even ‘scandalous,’” Forbes said in a statement released after the review was made public.

Ever since the potential move became a topic of discussion, local economic officials have decried the proposal, claiming it would cost the Hampton Roads area both jobs and dollars.

According to the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, the loss of a carrier would result in a net loss of “approximately 6,000 jobs and decrease the region’s gross product by approximately $425 million.”

The chamber said the estimates include the direct, indirect and induced impacts of the carrier movement, but do not include the additional loss of a flight wing that would also be relocated to Mayport.

Last month, Kevin Hughes of the Suffolk Economic Development office said the impact of such a major loss in Norfolk would have ripple effects in Suffolk.

“It’s really hard to put a dollar amount on what impact it would have specifically on Suffolk,” Hughes said. “But there is no doubt the loss of a carrier would have an impact.”

Aside from the military families in Suffolk who could be transferred, the loss of business at the Norfolk Naval Base would impact some Suffolk companies that have contracts with the Navy.

But the decision is not final, and both Webb and Forbes have committed to continuing the fight against the proposed move.

“This is not a done deal,” Webb said.