Plan to relocate carrier from Norfolk to Mayport makes no sense.

Jan 28, 2009 by

Defense Secretary Robert Gates testified to the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday on a plan to move one of  five Norfolk, Virginia based Navy carriers to Mayport, Florida. The move would cost an estimated $600 million and has been justified by Gates as necessary due to the threat of natural disaster or terrorist attack to the carriers currently stationed at Norfolk.

There are currently no carriers home ported at Mayport and most of the estimated $600 million cost of the move would go towards construction of special facilities associated with maintaining the carrier’s nuclear power plant. The last carrier stationed at Mayport had been the conventionally powered John F. Kennedy, which was retired in 2007.

Gates told the committee that he worried about all the carriers being concentrated at a port “which does receive a lot of hurricanes.” I have lived in the Norfolk area for over 40 years and I can count the number of hurricanes that have come close to this area on one hand. No hurricane has ever caused extensive damage to this area in all that time. On the other hand anyone who has ever read a paper in the last 40 years knows that Florida is hit by more hurricanes than any other state in the United States. Our neighbor to the south, North Carolina, receives more hurricanes than Virginia does. It is worrying that our Defense Secretary is unaware of those facts and is basing a $600 million move on his version of reality.

As for the terrorist attack aspect of Gates concerns, a Navy admiral informally told a local Representative that the risk of a terrorist event in Norfolk knocking out the entire carrier fleet is less than 10 percent. The entire cold war was fought with only one carrier port on the east coast. Additionally, the Navy decision was made without a detailed risk analysis. Senator Jim Webb, a Democrat has said that the Navy’s plan is symptomatic of a planning process “so out of control that we’re not focusing on the areas that can truly help the country, like rebuilding the fleet and putting aircraft out there into the squadrons.”

At a time when the Navy is facing cancellations of some of it’s new weapons programs, such as the littoral combat ship, the Ford class of aircraft carrier and the DDG-1000 destroyer, it makes no sense to pay $600 million to move a single carrier from one port to another, given that there is no real justification for such a move. The real reasons have less to do with military planning and preparedness and more to do with politics. Moving a carrier from Norfolk would siphon hundreds of millions of dollars annually from the local economy while at the same time infusing the economy of Mayport with those same hundreds of millions. I wonder how many Florida politicians are supporting this move? I doubt if there is anyone in the Navy who is supporting it.

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The U.S. military represents the best of our youth.

Jun 5, 2008 by

I am always upset when I read or hear someone denigrate the quality of the American serviceperson. I have read and heard people say that serving in the U.S. military is only for losers or those who can’t get a real job. Facts and my own experience say otherwise. In a recent article written by General William S. Wallace, Commanding General of TRADOC (Training and Doctrine Command) General Wallace states that only 28 percent of the 17 to 24 year-old population qualifies to wear a military uniform. The other 72 percent fail to meet minimum standards on education, character and health. I seriously doubt that similar statistics apply for the private sector. So you tell me where the best of our youth are employed. I say it is with the U.S. military. Who but the military has programs to encourage educational achievement? WIth programs like JROTC and the National Defense Cadet Corps (NDCC) the U.S. military is striving to provide an environment where the youth of America can learn leadership, responsibility, critical thinking and many other skills that will serve them both in the military and throughout their lives.

From my personal experience of working with both the Navy and the Army for over 30 years I can state that nowhere in the private sector have I met men and women of any higher character, dedication, and moral conviction than in the U.S. military. The day I retired from civil service at Fort Monroe, Virginia, headquarters of TRADOC, was the proudest day of my life. Not only did I receive the Department of the Army’s Commander’s Award for Civilian Service but I also received a U.S. flag that had been flown over Fort Monroe. Fort Monroe has been an active post since 1823 and has a proud history. What Fortune 500 company treats its retirees as well?

So the next time you hear or read someone not giving the men and women of the U.S. military the respect they are due, take the time to correct them. It is the least you can do for everything they have done for you and our country. If my words are not eloquent enough to convey to you how outstanding these men and women are then maybe this video taken during a ceremony at Arlington Cemetary will be.

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