Virginia won a key round over Florida Monday in the two states’ years-long battle over an aircraft carrier, but the fight isn’t quite over yet.
President Obama’s budget submission for fiscal 2013 does not request any money to implement the Navy’s plan to move a carrier from Norfolk to Mayport, Fla., indefinitely delaying the transfer beyond the previous target date of 2019.
The two states have been squabbling on Capitol Hill over the move since it was first proposed in 2008. Now, looming cuts in the defense budget appear to be working in Virginia’s favor on this issue, as the state’s lawmakers have seized on the $500 million-plus cost of the proposal.
Monday’s news prompted jubilation among Virginia officials and frustration in Florida, though each state chose to interpret the development differently.
Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) issued a statement praising the Navy for its decision to “call off plans” for the move. Former governor George Allen (R), now running for Senate, said in a release the Navy had “canceled” the project. And a statement from Virginia GOP Reps. Randy Forbes, Scott Rigell and Rob Wittman used both “canceled” and “call off.”
Sen. James Webb (D), who has led Virginia’s effort in his chamber, was more circumspect, saying he “commended the Navy’s decision to indefinitely suspend” the planned move.
And Floridians are taking a glass-half-full approach.
“The good news is I’ve been assured by the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) that the Navy remains committed to a strategic dispersal of assets and to homeporting a nuclear aircraft carrier at Naval Station Mayport,” said Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R). “The bad news is the move will be delayed due to budget constraints.”
Obama’s budget submission does provide funding for other ships to come to Mayport, softening the blow to the area of the delayed carrier move.
Florida officials have argued that putting the entire East Coast nuclear carrier fleet in one location — Norfolk — was insecure, because the ships would be vulnerable to attacks and natural disasters. Virginia has called those concerns overstated, and emphasized that the Pentagon simply can’t spare the money.