Jacksonville, FL - We knew three more ships were coming to Naval Station Mayport over the next few years- but we now know that will be much sooner than planned.
Mayport’s first Amphibious Ready Group will start rolling in by the end of next year. The group includes the big deck amphibious ship USS Iwo Jima, the LPD USS New York and the LSD USS Fort McHenry.
“This is one of the most flexible, the most lethal, the most important things we have in the Navy is an Amphibious Ready Group,” says Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.
Earlier this year, Mabus announced the ships would be arriving by 2015. Now the first one, the USS New York, will come to Mayport by the last quarter of next year with the entire group here by the end of 2014. Congressman Ander Crenshaw lobbied to bring the ships over as soon as possible.
“Our industrial base is ready, Mayport is ready- they’re moved up the dates that they’re gunna bring in so that’s good,” he says.
Crenshaw says the faster timeline shows that Mayport is a vital base.
“It shows you how important Mayport is to national security.”
With those ships will come two thousand sailors, their families and many jobs.
“Those three ships will take about $75 million a year for maintenance and repair- work that can be done here,” Mabus says.
The timing is especially important because Mayport recently retired some frigates. Moving up the timeline means there will be no lag in employment opportunities in the area.
“Ship yard workers, suppliers, people whose livelihood in this area depend on having these ships and their families here- there won’t be a gap,” he says.
But it will be difficult to keep the Navy growing with a number of budget cuts looming at the federal level. We will update more on this side of the story later today.