This week, Florida’s two U.S. senators--Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio--called on the Trump administration to bring a nuclear powered aircraft carrier to Mayport on the First Coast.
Nelson and Rubio wrote the president on the matter in a letter sent out on Thursday.
“The security, availability, and redundancy of our aircraft carrier fleet is critical to our national security in light of the increased global security threats,” Nelson and Rubio wrote. “The U.S. Navy has a long history of homeporting aircraft at least one aircraft carrier at Naval Station Mayport. Since the 2007 decommissioning of the conventionally powered U.S.S. John F. Kennedy, no aircraft carrier has been homeported at Mayport. In 2009, the US Navy officially announced its decision to homeport a CVN at Mayport, and the DOD’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense review supported the Navy’s decision.
“Despite the fact that the Navy has conducted a multi-year review process for building the appropriate facilities at Mayport for a CVN, and has carefully weighed the strategic, operational, and environmental consequences, to date, no action has been taken by the DOD or Navy to mitigate this risk,” the senators added. “Naval Station Mayport is an ideal location because it offers a strategic and operational value that enhances our national security posture. We strongly recommend you fund the necessary improvements at Naval Station Mayport to include construction of nuclear propulsion maintenance facilities and a parking structure in your FY19 Presidential Budget.
“Strategic dispersal of our capital ships is a long held Navy requirement and only prudent considering the cost and strategic value to our national defense,” they wrote in conclusion. “The urgency of dispersing our East Coast fleet should not be underestimated. We appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to working with you to ensure the DOD’s budget in Fiscal Year 2019 reflects this urgency.”
Back in March
, the two senators and all 27 representatives in the U.S. House signed on a letter sent to U.S. Defense Sec. James Mattis and acting U.S. Navy Sec. Sean Stackey in support of moving a carrier to Mayport.
While the actors have changed, this is not a new issue on Capitol Hill. In recent years, two Republican congressmen who are now out of the House--Ander Crenshaw of Florida and Randy Forbes of Virginia--clashed on the issue.
Back in 2011, the House Armed Services Committee voted to gut funding that was allocated for improvements Mayport needs in order to house a carrier. Forbes, who at the time chaired the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee and who was looking to ensure Norfolk would be the only naval base on the East Coast with a nuclear carrier, crowed that slashing $30 million in funding from Mayport would help the Old Dominion.
Crenshaw fired back, noting that Pentagon officials maintained America needed two ports for nuclear carriers on the Atlantic seaboard. While Mayport has traditionally housed aircraft carriers, as Nelson and Rubio noted in the letter to Trump, there have not been any stationed there since 2007, when the USS John F. Kennedy was decommissioned.
After sixteen years in Congress, Crenshaw decided not to run for another term in 2016. Forbes wasn’t so lucky. In a nasty primary in June 2016, former Navy SEAL Scott Taylor beat Forbes 52 percent to 40 percent. While there had been talk that Forbes could end up as secretary of the Navy in the Trump administration, he was passed over and is now a senior fellow at the Naval War College.