The effort to base a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Jacksonville took another big step forward today when the U.S. Senate committed $75.9 million for two key projects at Naval Station Mayport.
The move comes just three weeks after the President signed into law legislation that gave the government’s approval but not the actual money for the projects.
The money was included in broader legislation that funds numerous construction projects at military bases and veterans’ facilities across the country.
Specifically, the military construction appropriations bill allocates $46.3 million for dredging the St. Johns River, an improvement that’s necessary for carriers to access Mayport at all times.
Currently, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers can only access Mayport with a light load and during high tide.
The legislation also includes $29.6 million for wharf improvements.
Currently, the Navy’s Atlantic fleet of nuclear carriers is based in just one port in Norfolk, Virginia.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown and Ander Crenshaw, a Democrat and a Republican from Jacksonville, respectively, argue that poses a national security risk.
The Department of Defense is studying the risks and expected to make a final decision imminently on whether to move a nuclear carrier to Jacksonville.
“We’ve gotten the government’s OK for the improvements, now we just need to bring home the funding,” Nelson said following the Senate’s vote Tuesday. “Once we have that then it’s up to the Pentagon to do the right thing for national security by dispersing the Atlantic carrier fleet.”
The House of Representatives has already passed a version of the military construction spending bill that contains funding for the Mayport improvements.
The House and Senate passed spending bills now head to a panel of congressional negotiators charged with working out differences between the two versions.
Congress is expected to give final approval for the Mayport funding by the end of the year.
Besides Mayport, the spending bill also provides over $920 million in funding for a number of other construction projects across Florida. They include:
• Eglin AFB - $246.49M of military construction funding for various F-35 and 7th Special Forces Group basing projects.
• Orlando VA - $371.3M for new VA medical facility.
• Bay Pines VA Healthcare System - $96.8M for an inpatient/outpatient facility.
• Hurlburt Field - $18.65M of military construction funding for a vehicle maintenance facility, re-capitalization of an MC-130 simulator, and electrical improvements.
• Pensacola Naval Air Station - $26.2M for a new bachelors enlisted housing facility and a simulator facility.
• Whiting Field - $4.12M for a paraloft facility.
• Panama City - $7.3M to purchase land for a new Army Reserve Center.
• Jacksonville Naval Air Station - $5.91M to modify existing facilities for the Navy's new P-8 aircraft.
• Jacksonville International Air Port (Air National Guard base) - $11.5M to replace a jet fuel storage complex.
• Blount Island - $3.76M for a port operations facility.
• Patrick Air Force Base - $8.4M for a combat weapons training facility.
• MacDill Air Force Base - $38.3M for a new child development center and U.S. Central Command’s commandant facility.
• U.S. Southern Command headquarters - $55.4 M for the 3rd increment of the headquarters’ project.
• West Palm Beach - $26M to purchase land for a new Army Reserve Center.