Navy carrier for isles still a possibility
Hawaii is still in the running as a home port of a sixth nuclear aircraft carrier in the Pacific, says Navy Secretary Donald Winter.
Winter said yesterday he will make a determination by May where the USS Carl Vinson will be home-ported.
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Source: U.S. Navy
The Vinson, which moved from Bremerton, Wash., to Newport News, Va., to be refueled and overhauled, will be there for three years.
Besides Pearl Harbor, the other options are Guam, San Diego and either Bremerton or Everett naval station in Washington.
Winter acknowledged that there are several other major changes forecast for Guam, including redeploying 8,000 Marines from Okinawa and also upgrading Andersen Air Force Base to house B-52 and B-1B bombers as well as jet fighters.
"The cost of the infrastructure is a factor we have to consider," said Winter, who plans to visit Guam and Okinawa after leaving Hawaii. "It adds to complications associated with it."
Winter, on his first Pacific visit since taking office in January, also said the Navy is "committed" to maintaining Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. The shipyard had been placed on the chopping block in July 2005 during the Base Realignment and Closure Commission process.
"BRAC is history as far as I am concerned," Winter said. "We are committed in maintaining the shipyard."
Winter met with Pearl Harbor shipyard employees yesterday and acknowledged "there are always ups and downs depending on the anomalies of the workload."
With 4,300 civilian workers, the shipyard is the state's largest industrial employer.
However, Pearl Harbor lost the job to overhaul the Los Angeles-class submarine USS Greeneville, which will be sent to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine for a year. That loss is forcing the Navy to ask eligible shipyard workers to consider taking early retirement, labor officials say.
Pearl Harbor spokesman Kerry Gershaneck said the Navy hopes to woo 300 workers eligible for early retirement to accept its offer, which can come with one-time bonuses of up to $25,000.
Winter, who is responsible for an annual budget in excess of $125 billion and is responsible for almost 900,000 people, said he personally will be watching shipyard leaders "to make sure the work force is more efficient."
He said he will be watching the demographics of the shipyard since there is "a large number of people who are retirement-eligible, and one of the issues I was pursuing is bringing new people into the yard and train them."
Shipyard officials have noted that 25 percent of its labor force is eligible to retire.
Ben Toyama, a shipyard labor leader, also is concerned that basing a carrier at Pearl Harbor could mean loss of jobs in the area of maintaining nuclear submarines, based on projections that four of its shipyards' workload will drop by 12 percent.
The Navy has said there will 800 new jobs created by home-porting a carrier in Hawaii, Toyama said.
"But you can't downsize all of its four shipyards because the workload will drop by 12 percent," Toyama added, "and add 800 jobs only at Pearl Harbor."
Winter said, "Pearl Harbor is a significant contributor. It is a helpful element. I think the question whether we are going to have Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard has been asked and answered."