The push to bring a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to Mayport Naval Station picked up steam Monday when Florida's entire delegation sent a letter to the Department of Defense asking for money to update the basin and make it a sufficient home for one of the Navy's largest combat ships.
The letter stresses the importance of having nuclear carriers (CVN) at multiple locations on the East Coast to diversify Navy assets, and it cites an endorsement in the Department of Defense's 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review that called for the necessary construction at Mayport.
"To mitigate the risk of a terrorist attack, accident, or natural disaster, the U.S. Navy will homeport an East Coast carrier in Mayport, Florida," the 2010 review said.
Mayport has not had a carrier since the USS John F. Kennedy was decommissioned in 2007. Prior to that, the USS Saratoga called Northeast Florida home for years before it was decommissioned in 1995.
"After the conventionally powered John F. Kennedy was decommissioned, the Navy prudently decided to complete construction necessary to make Mayport CVN capable," said the letter to the Department of Defense.
It was sent to both Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley asking them to consider improvements at Mayport as they consider the budget for the 2018 fiscal year. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson were the lead writers on the letter, and all 27 congressional representatives from Florida signed it.
"While we understand the realities of the fiscal environment, our Navy overleverages risk to our carrier fleet by having only one CVN homeport on the Eastern seaboard," the letter said. "Not only are our operational CVN in jeopardy, but our future capital ships under construction are practically co-located, risking tens of billions of dollars of assets as well as our ability to project power abroad now and in the future."
According to the letter, the Navy conducted a review over the course of several years before making the decision to bring a nuclear carrier to Mayport as early as 2019. The letter emphasizes the importance of spreading out Navy forces and highlights Mayport's strategic and operational value as reasons it would make the most sense as a landing spots for a new carrier.
"We implore you to no longer defer resource allocations needed for Mayport to continue its service to the carrier fleet," the letter said.
Mayport is the current home to the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group. The trio of ships is made up of the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43). The Iwo Jima is the largest of the three with a core crew of about 700.
It would be the second largest ship in the basin if the decision is made to bring a nuclear carrier to Mayport. The Iwo Jima is the largest vessel at Mayport.