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Action News Investigates delays bringing aircraft carrier to Mayport

Reported by: Jamie Smith
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Updated: 5/08/2013 9:58 am
JACKSONVILLE, Fla -- The Navy decommissioned the USS John F. Kennedy back in 2007.  Since then, the Pentagon has expressed a desire to relocate another carrier to Mayport for safety reasons.

Action News uncovered a congressional report recently completed on the need to separate the carriers in the Navy's Atlantic Fleet.  Currently all four carriers in the Atlantic Fleet are homeported in Norfolk, Virginia.

The more than 60 page document raises concerns about having all of the east coast carriers in one port.  The report says moving just one carrier would mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack.

Retired Admiral Bob Natter voiced similar concerns to Action News Jacksonville, "If you've ever heard if Pearl Harbor, you've got the answer. It is important to be able strategically disperse the carriers."

Action News' Jamie Smith traveled to Norfolk seeking answers for the delays.  He found three carriers docked in Norfolk on his visit.  Each lined up at piers next to each other. 

The only facility that builds carriers for the US Navy is just miles from Norfolk Naval Base.  During our visit, we could see crews working on the newest nuclear powered carrier.   The Ford should be completed by 2015.  

That carrier will not be ported in Mayport.   It will still take years, and millions of dollars to prepare Mayport to permanently house a new carrier. 

Some of the work is already completed.   The Navy spent more than $45 million dollars to dredge the channel to make room for a carrier.

The Navy still has to build facilities.  The Navy identified a need for a controlled industrial facility that could cost between $70.5 million and $139.1 million.

Ship maintenance support facilities could cost between $45.6 million and $157.2 million.

A parking garage could cost between $39.5 million and $27.9 million.  The first of each estimate is what the General Accounting Office estimates.  The second number is what the Navy estimates for cost.   The JFK did not have a parking garage when it called Mayport home.

The Congressional report points out there are currently no strategic options outside of Hampton Roads, Virginia if there is a catastrophic event.

It also says Mayport is the only cost effective option to relocate a carrier. 

But Action News found other reasons a move has not occurred.

Lawmakers from Virginia have questioned the Navy's need to separate aircraft carriers.  They even sent a letter to the Secretary of the Navy arguing a second port for carriers on the east coast is not needed. 

We reached out to members of Congress from Virginia, they did not want to answer our questions.
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