Senators hope naval presence will grow
State leaders move on after loss of carrier Carl Vinson
The announcement yesterday that the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson will be based in San Diego instead of Pearl Harbor was a disappointment but not a surprise, said Jim Tollefson, Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii president.
"There were indications that it was going to the West Coast," Tollefson said, "The official word has come through now."
The Navy considered bases in California, Guam, Hawaii and Washington.
The Carl Vinson will join two other nuclear-powered Nimitz-class carriers in San Diego: the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan. San Diego had been home to three aircraft carriers in the past.
Gov. Linda Lingle said she is pleased a decision has finally been made, which will allow the state to move forward on how to best use Kalaeloa. She said there had been a lot of uncertainty over the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station, which the state had offered as a base for the carrier's fighter jets and helicopters.
U.S. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka said they were disappointed with the Navy's decision.
"The cost of sending a carrier to Hawaii was interpreted as too high when the carrier could be more easily accommodated in San Diego and when compared to Hawaii's advantage of its much closer proximity to potential trouble spots in Asia that threaten our national security," the senators said in a written statement.
They said they look forward to future opportunities to expand the Navy's presence in Hawaii.
The Navy has not announced the need to find a new home for any other aircraft carrier in the near future.
However, "the Navy is always examining how to best position our forces," said Jon Yoshishige, spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.
The USS George Washington, which is in Norfolk, Va., is scheduled to move to Yokosuka, Japan, next year when the USS Kitty Hawk is decommissioned.
Some construction work on the first of a new class of aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, has already started. It is expected to replace the USS Enterprise, whose home port is in Norfolk, Va.
However, the Navy has not designated a home port for the last of the Nimitz-class carriers, the USS George H.W. Bush, which is under construction in Virginia. It is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy next year.
The Carl Vinson, whose previous home port was in Bremerton, Wash., is undergoing refueling and a complex overhaul in Northrop Grumman Newport News Shipyard in Virginia.
The Navy last studied the possibility of stationing a carrier group in Hawaii in 1998. The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii estimated that would have meant the creation of 4,200 jobs and a $375 million annual boost to the economy.