One of the topics of discussion at a meeting I attended today was the possibility of homeporting the George H.W. Bush … soon to be the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier … at Naval Station Mayport. Over the loud objections of the Virginia congressional delegation.
Now, Norfolk, Virginia is the primary east coast Naval shipyard, and where all of the Navy’s east coast carriers are currently based. You don’t have to spend very long with Google Earth to see that it’s a 25 or 30 mile run to the ocean from Norfolk, whereas from Mayport, it’s less than a mile. And with that much river between your docks and the ocean, well it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it might not take much to make the Naval Station in Norfolk inaccessible, either in or out. At least from this layman’s point of view, dispersing the carrier fleet between two east coast facilities just seems to make good sense. You also don’t have to be much of an historian to know about Pearl Harbor, and the issues that came from having so many assets in one location. While there’s no threat of hundreds of airplanes striking Norfolk, well we didn’t expect hijackers to fly domestic airliners into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon, either.
But the Virginia congressional delegation is accusing Florida, and Jacksonville, of playing politics with the carrier. By no less professional political animal than Senator John Warner.
The thing is, they’re concerned about losing something they’ve never really had. Granted, the G.H.W. Bush is being laid up in Norfolk, but there’s not a crew for her. It would seem to me, and I’ve been wrong before, but it would seem to me that those shipyard workers will have work after the G.H.W. Bush is finished and out to sea.
How is it not playing politics when the primary argument for keeping the new carrier at Norfolk is that “we’ll lose jobs”. Hey guys … been there, done that. When the Kennedy was decommissioned and towed away from Mayport, we lost a big economic driver for our community. Nobody disputes that. And yes, having the new carrier homeported here would certainly come with some economic benefits.
But that’s not this area’s primary argument. If you take the emotion away, and look at this just a tad dispassionately, you can’t come to any conclusion other than dispersing assets makes sense from a national security point of view. There’s an old saw about “putting all your eggs in one basket” for a reason.
Now, this city voted, in a fair referendum, to let you keep your Master Jet Base. And frankly, if the Navy was asking the city for as much to bring the carrier here as it did to re-establish the Master Jet Base at Cecil Field, I don’t know how that vote would come out. But the Navy already owns naval Station Mayport, so it’s something of an intellectual exercise, and nothing more. But don’t insult us by saying WE’RE playing politics in this issue, without at least admitting that politics is involved in YOUR argument as well.
Or, in case you’re unfamiliar with another old analogy:
Pot … Kettle … Black …