NORFOLK – Top Navy officials are considering adding an aircraft carrier to the west coast fleet which means a carrier could be leaving Norfolk.
If that happens, it would be a bitter economic blow to Hampton Roads, especially since there is already talk of moving an aircraft carrier from Norfolk to Mayport, Florida.
6,000 jobs and $425 million in annual revenue is attached to each ship. Currently there are five aircraft carriers homeported in Norfolk.
President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have already said the United States will turn its military might towards the Asia-Pacific region in years to come.
Tuesday, there was new indication on how that might happen. The Chief of Naval Operations confirmed the Navy will likely place a third carrier in San Diego within four years.
"Obviously they've decided on a carrier strategy if they can talk about a third carrier going to San Diego. That's what we need to know. Is it going to come from here?" asked retired rear admiral Fred Metz.
The retired admiral is very concerned about Hampton Roads losing two of its carriers and he feels others should be as well.
"The Mayport issue becomes an issue that has to be resolved. But if you go to three, with one in Mayport, that is another impact. When you take 5,000 or 6,000 people out of your economy, look what the Ford motor plant did. It still is going to be an impact. We've got to recognize that because we're so dependent on it. We're not going to be immune to it," Metz stated.
This new carrier talk comes as local lawmakers are already bracing for the details on the Obama administration's announced intentions to cut the military by $489 billion dollars over the coming decade. Just a few days ago, Secretary of Defense Panetta visited the USS Enterprise and announced the U.S. will maintain its fleet of 11 aircraft carriers despite budget pressures.
"I was happy about what the secretary said, but we're going to have to stay vigilant," said Senator Mark Warner.