Senator says carrier must stay put due to Navy budget shortfall

Citing urgent demands on the Navy's budget, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., Thursday called on the Pentagon to reverse the service's decision to move a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to Florida's Mayport Naval Base.

In a letter to Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of Defense for policy, Webb said a $417 million shortfall in the Navy's fiscal 2009 ship maintenance accounts makes an "even more compelling argument" to keep all of the Navy's East Coast carriers at Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia.

Since late last year, Webb and other Virginia lawmakers have argued that moving a carrier to Florida would be too costly. The Navy has estimated it would need to invest $600 million at Mayport before moving the carrier there.

But Webb, a former Navy secretary, said he expects the total bill to exceed $1 billion. Lawmakers from Florida, which could gain 3,000 jobs with the new carrier, have argued that stationing East coast carriers in one place poses a national security risk.

The ship would be the first nuclear-powered carrier at Mayport, which had been home to conventionally powered carriers from 1952 until the retirement of the USS John F. Kennedy in 2007.

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