Forbes calls for local carrier support

Published 7:59 pm Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fresh off his party’s loss of a crucial debate on a nationalized system of health care, U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA-4th) avoided the topic Tuesday in a presentation before the Suffolk division of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.

The economy, jobs and savings are the issues people outside of Washington, D.C., are most concerned about, he said, and Congress has lost credibility by refusing to focus on those issues.

“We’ve got to start restoring some credibility in government,” Forbes told the group of business leaders meeting at the Old Dominion University’s Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center Tuesday morning.

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“There’s a lot of bad news out there, but there’s a lot of great things we can do,” he said, suggesting that the VMASC facility could serve as the foundation for the Suffolk area to become “the modeling and simulation capital of the world.”

Already, he noted, VMASC — with an average salary of $83,000 — along with the companies and agencies that rely on its services, have helped “raise the median income in Suffolk from one of the lowest in the area to one of the highest.”

But things are not all looking up in regards to the area’s economic future, the congressman warned.

“The biggest economic challenge Hampton Roads is facing right now,” he said, is the Navy’s announced intent to move an aircraft carrier group to Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Fla.

“It’s one of the worst decisions the Navy has made,” Forbes added. “This has nothing to do with national security.”

The proposal, he contends, is politically motivated and intended to buy the votes of people in Florida, thereby helping to ensure that there is never a repeat of the November 2000 presidential election, when fewer than 600 votes separated George W. Bush and Al Gore and Florida became a legal battleground for votes.

“Don’t think this is a decision based on national security,” he said, pointing out discrepancies in the U.S. Navy’s evaluation of factors involved in the decision. A Navy report, for instance, erroneously claims that Jacksonville and Norfolk are equally at risk from hurricanes.

Forbes has been leading the fight to force the Navy to rescind its decision. He has received broad support from others in the Virginia congressional delegation, regardless of their party affiliation, he said, and he has been “picking up support from the Armed Services Committee.”

“If we lose this carrier, it is a big-time economic loss for us,” he told Chamber members, asking them to rally in support of Virginia’s carriers.

But even if all of Hampton Roads working together, he said, is unlikely to prevail against the combined efforts of all of Florida’s politicians, so he called on Virginia’s business and political leaders to work with Hampton Roads’ huge base of retired military officers to try to bend the congressional will in Virginia’s favor.

“As a Chamber, you guys can provide incredible leadership,” Forbes said.