Budget Would Allow Norfolk To Accommodate Carrier Ford
(NEWPORT NEWS DAILY PRESS 17 JUN 13) … Hugh Lessig
The Navy hasn’t announced where it will base its newest aircraft carrier, but money is set aside in the House defense budget to accommodate the Gerald R. Ford at Naval Station Norfolk – where it will at least begin service.
The $638 billion defense bill that passed the House of Representatives last week includes $3.38 million to improve Pier 11 at Norfolk. The project is listed as “power upgrades for CVN-78,” which refers to the Ford’s hull number.
The Ford is scheduled to launch from Newport News Shipbuilding in November and will be delivered to the Navy in 2016,
The Navy has not yet decided on a permanent home for the Ford, a Navy official said Monday. The formal announcement is expected about 18 months before delivery.
The official, speaking on background, said the Navy prefers to keep ships close to where they are built when they begin service. Another factor in the eventual decision will be the Obama administration’s stated desire to shift more military assets to the Pacific.
The project would pay for power booms that support cables running from Pier 11 to the carrier, according to budget documents. Pier 11 is the only pier at Norfolk capable of berthing the Ford, which is the first of a new class.
The existing power booms on Pier 11 are configured to support 4,160 volts to the Nimitz-class carriers. The new power booms would support 13,800 volts to the more technically advanced Ford class. The Ford also requires power booms at different locations on the pier, budget documents say.
No other U.S. naval stations are in line for a similar upgrade in the House budget.
It was not immediately clear Monday whether the Senate defense bill also includes this project. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its version of the defense budget last week.
Since 2009, Hampton Roads has lost one carrier — the Enterprise — which was inactivated last year. It has technically gained two.
The USS George H.W. Bush was delivered to the Navy in 2009 and is homeported at Norfolk. The USS Abraham Lincoln, which had been based in Everett, Wash., came east last year for its midlife refueling. Now at Newport News Shipbuilding, it currently lists Norfolk as its homeport.
Carrier-basing decisions affect a region’s economy as well as national military strategy. Adding a carrier means thousands of additional sailors and their families pumping money into businesses and paying taxes. Likewise, losing a carrier is akin to a major factory shutdown.Back to Top