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Lynn III Deputy Secretary of Defense The Department of Defense The Pentagon Washington, DC 20301 Dear Secretary Lynn, Before the Quadrennial Defense Review completes its consideration of the Navy’s proposal to homeport a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Mayport, Florida, I wish to bring several important issues to the attention of those officials who are responsible for assessing the Navy’s scheme. For reasons summarized below, I am convinced more than ever that homeporting a carrier in Mayport is fiscally irresponsible and strategically unjustified. Fiscal Responsibility As I said in my letter of June 11, during the Navy’s fiscal year 2009 budget testimony, Admiral Roughead, the Chief of Naval Operations stated: “Future shore readiness … is at risk.” I asserted to you that shore readiness is already at risk, citing the Navy’s acknowledgment that it had a $28 billion backlog in restoration and modernization for the total Navy shore infrastructure. In May, it reported a $1.3 billion funding shortfall for the four naval shipyards. In fact, I have now learned that the Navy substantially understated those backlogs at the time. This month, the Navy confirmed that its total fiscal year 2009 restoration-modernization backlog for shore installations totaled $36.6 billion. The backlog at the naval shipyards totals $3.0 billion, a sum that includes a $907 million shortfall at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. I have enclosed a copy of the Navy’s response to my information request. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is currently investigating the shipyards’ material condition to determine how their deterioration is affecting productivity, quality of work, safety, and worker morale. I am confident the GAO’s findings and recommendations will assist Congress exert more rigorous oversight of the Navy’s shore readiness. We do not need the GAO’s findings, however, to conclude that responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars demands that the Navy first maintain its existing facilities properly before investing what could be up to $1 billion to build a new Controlled Industrial Facility in Mayport to support a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The Navy is not simply deferring needed maintenance and repair of its nuclear-support shore infrastructure; it also is apparently delaying critically needed military construction. I understand that the Navy has deferred the construction of a $74.6 million Controlled Industrial Facility (CIF) at Norfolk Naval Shipyard from fiscal year 2011 to 2012. This facility, which will replace an antiquated building that is more than 40-years old, is needed to perform depot-level maintenance and refuelings for the Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines more safely and efficiently.
The Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program has identified significant safety, health, productivity, and other deficiencies with the shipyard’s existing facility. It is inconceivable to me that the Navy would propose to build a new CIF in Mayport while delaying a critically needed replacement CIF at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. I will firmly oppose any Navy authorization or appropriation request to do so. Mayport Dredging The administration’s fiscal year 2010 defense budget request included authorization of an appropriation of $46.3 million for the dredging of the channel and turning basin at Naval Station Mayport, Florida. During congressional consideration of this request, you and the Secretary of the Navy confirmed that this dredging project is not associated with the carrier homeporting proposal for Mayport. It is important that the Quadrennial Defense Review be informed that there is no linkage between the two issues. Last April, when Secretary of Defense Gates announced key decisions associated with the president’s fiscal year 2010 defense budget request, the Navy called me to confirm that its military requirement for dredging is to permit safer routine and emergency port visits by an aircraft carrier by lessening the current severe restrictions associated with the existing water depth in Mayport's channel and basin. You amplified this rationale in your August letter to me, noting, “Secretary Gates has taken the prudent step of seeking funding for the dredging of the Mayport channel within the fiscal year 2010 budget to provide an alternative port to dock East Coast carriers in the event of a disaster.” Conferees for the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill from the House of Representatives’ and Senate’s armed services committees met in September and October to reconcile differences between each chamber’s bill. During their consideration of military construction projects, the conferees recognized that confusion could exist regarding the dredging project owing to erroneous assertions that it would pave the way for homeporting a carrier in Mayport. As a result, a manager’s statement accompanied the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act that was signed into law by President Obama in October. It states, in part, that the conferees authorized funding for the project based on assurances provided by the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations that the dredging is needed for current operational considerations irrespective of a final decision on carrier homeporting at Mayport. Of note, the manager’s statement says: “The conferees emphasize that the inclusion of an authorization for dredging at NS Mayport is not an indication of conferee support for the establishment of an additional homeport for nuclear aircraft carriers on the East Coast, or intended to influence the ongoing Quadrennial Defense Review, which may include a recommendation on the establishment of a second East Coast homeport for nuclear aircraft carriers. Furthermore, the conferees note that this funding is provided solely to permit use of Mayport as a transient port, and that any potential designation of Mayport as a nuclear carrier homeport will require future authorizations from the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and House of Representatives.”
Military Risk Last year, when I was briefed on the carrier homeporting proposal, the Navy said that the risk of a catastrophic event (natural or man-made) closing Hampton Roads is “small.” The Navy’s comparative assessment of Hampton Roads and Mayport concluded, “The most compelling strategic rationale to homeport a CVN/LHA in Mayport is as a hedge against a catastrophic event in Norfolk.” Pressed during a congressional briefing to identify a precise threat warranting this conclusion, the Navy stated Mayport had a “slight advantage,” but there was not a clear, credible threat (i.e., natural disaster, terrorist attack) distinguishing one homeport from the other. The Navy has failed to provide any credible threat-based intelligence assessment that justifies the rationale for its planned actions. Dredging Mayport’s channel and turning basin so that it can accommodate a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier for an unlikely emergency port visit clearly obviates the need to invest up to $1 billion to build duplicative nuclear-support infrastructure for carrier homeporting. Contrary to the low risk of a natural or man-made catastrophic event closing Hampton Roads, the Navy continues to incur significant industrial-safety risks every day at Norfolk Naval Shipyard by failing to maintain it properly and by not funding necessary military construction projects with the priority they deserve. The consequences of the Navy’s failure to maintain the material condition of the shipyard properly falls on the backs of the yard’s dedicated work force. During her confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Armed Services in October, Christine H. Fox, your department’s director of cost assessment and program evaluation, testified that sound cost-benefit analysis and technical risk assessments were needed to manage complex acquisition programs properly. “I believe that sound and unbiased cost and schedule estimates, including thorough risk assessments, are absolutely essential for effective acquisition decision-making and oversight,” she responded to one of the Committee’s advance policy questions. The same principles should guide the Quadrennial Defense Review’s assessment of the Navy’s homeporting plan. Statements by Adm. Robert J. Natter, U.S. Navy (Retired) In November, I was stunned by USA Today’s revelation that the Department of Defense and the military departments are paying retired flag and general officers extraordinary salaries under contract to serve as “mentors.” It was gratifying to learn that Secretary of Defense Gates has promised a full review of the program. A provision in the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Appropriations Act also requires the DOD Inspector General to investigate the program. I promise vigorous action to correct what I see as a blatant conflict of interest and flagrant waste of taxpayer dollars for officers who are already well-compensated for their military careers with generous pensions. In this regard, I wish to be informed if retired Admiral Robert J. Natter, the former commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, met at any time with officials or officers participating in the Quadrennial Defense Review’s consideration of the Navy’s carrier homeporting proposal. If so, I ask that they be directed to disregard any statements he made or information he provided. During the past two years, Natter has firmly advocated the Navy’s carrier homeporting proposal for Mayport. Unfortunately, press reports quoting his views do not generally reveal that he is a paid lobbyist for the state of Florida and the City of Jacksonville, Fla. In addition to his
Department of Defense contracts in the “four-star-for-hire” mentor program, USA Today reported, “He [Natter] is also a defense consultant and a board member of weapons-maker BAE Systems. From 2004 through 2006, his firm received $1.5 million from the state of Florida to lobby the Navy and Congress on base-closing decisions, federal lobbying records show.” The Senate Office of Public Records documents that the City of Jacksonville paid Natter’s firm $30,000 through the third quarter of 2009 to support the city’s military advocacy and lobbying efforts. It would be totally inappropriate for Natter to leverage his retired status, special access, and prior service to lobby any officials participating in the Quadrennial Defense Review. Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance The Alliance, an organization of elected officials and civic leaders that includes the mayors and chairs of the 13 cities and counties that make up Virginia’s Hampton Roads region, recently wrote me to provide its assessment of a Congressional Research Service report on the Navy’s carrier homeporting proposal. A copy of the group’s letter is enclosed. The Alliance poses important questions, and I request that they be addressed during the Quadrennial Defense Review’s evaluation of the Navy’s plan. In closing, I wish to emphasize that there is a well-defined need to sustain Naval Station Mayport as an East Coast homeport for the Navy. As the Navy’s own studies reveal, however, there are other more fiscally responsible and strategically sound homeporting options than an aircraft carrier. The assignment of a large-deck amphibious ship or added numbers of the Littoral Combat Ship, for example, would be far less expensive, be more strategically responsive to the operational requirements of the U.S. Southern Command, and do more to provide higher levels of contracted maintenance work to sustain Jacksonville’s ship-repair industrial base. I appreciate your consideration of these matters. Sincerely,
Jim Webb United States Senator Enclosures: 1. Department of Defense Information Paper of 18 December 2009 2. Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance letter of November 19, 2009 Copy to: Undersecretary of Defense (Policy) Secretary of the Navy Chief of Naval Operations
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