Secretary of Navy: A carrier needs to come to Mayport

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus visited Mayport on Thursday to speak to sailors.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus visited Mayport on Thursday to speak to sailors.

NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. – The Secretary of the Navy made a stop at Naval Station Mayport on Thursday to talk to sailors and Navy leaders.

Nav Secretary Ray Mabus was on board the USS Gettysburg and at Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 48.

"We have to keep building ships, and while the Navy declined pretty dramatically between 2001 and 2008, we are growing the Navy again," Mabus told the sailors and Navy leaders. "We will get above 300 ships by the end of this decade."

Mabus made one thing clear -- the void created at Mayport by the decommissioning of the USS John F. Kennedy needs to be filled.

"We believe in strategic dispersal," he said. "We believe a carrier needs to come to Mayport. We've had to delay it some for purely budgetary reasons."

The JFK left Mayport in 2007. The base got three ships of an Amphibious Ready Group, or ARG, last year, and Mabus said that was a strategic and economic boost.

"One of the biggest differences is if you bring a carrier in, you have to fly in most of the repair work, most of the workers for the ARG," Mabus said. "All the work gets done here and creates a lot of jobs."

Mabus has many responsibilities; one is an annual budget in excess of $170 billion.

"I look more at what comes out of the defense committees and what the president's budget is," he said. "If they will pass the president's budget, it will give the Navy what we need to do our job."

Mabus says sequestration is not the answer.

"Don't cut money from health care, don't cut money for education or you will hurt the military," Mabus said.

Mabus gave the example that three out of four Americans age 18 to 24 do not qualify for the military because of health problems, lack of education or because they have a criminal record.

So those cuts would make matters worse.

Mabus said regardless of what comes over the horizon, they will be ready.

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