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Wittman, Virginia delegation call on Navy to keep ships in Norfolk

Rob Wittman
Rob Wittman

First District Congressman Rob Wittman has led the Virginia delegation in sending a letter to Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael Gilday, on the necessity of maintaining a robust presence at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

“As the Navy shifts its attention to China and the Pacific, we cannot ignore the need to maintain a strong presence on the East Coast, especially at Norfolk Naval Shipyard,” Wittman said. “The naval presence here is critical not only to national security, but to Virginia’s economy. That’s especially true in the Hampton Roads region, where the Navy serves as our greatest economic driver. I want to thank the entire Virginia delegation for joining me in calling on the Navy to keep ships homeported at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.”

The letter

Dear Admiral Gilday:

As we pivot towards the Indo-Pacific in our global force posture, it comes as no surprise that we’ve bolstered our presence on our Western Seaboard through increases in homeported ships. This increased presence is of such magnitude that San Diego has eclipsed Norfolk in the sheer number of homeported ships. Given the seriousness of the Pacific threat, this is understandable. However, over the last several years, we have continued to simultaneously homeport more and more ships along the Eastern Seaboard away from Norfolk.

We reiterate that, when it comes to Pacific homeporting prioritization, this is a natural trend in our re-posturing of forces. However, we must continue to flex the capabilities of Naval Station Norfolk and its surrounding naval infrastructure. As we proceed with our Future Naval Force Structure, we ask that our Navy stay mindful of resource allocation, lest we find ourselves in a situation where we need a rapid pivot to Atlantic-based capabilities, and no longer have the ability to do so. A rising China is a grave threat to American interests, but an opportunistic Russia with Atlantic ambitions, while America is heavily rebalanced to Pacific operations, would be just as grave.

It is also important that we consider the efficiency and effectiveness of deployments to areas such as the Persian Gulf. At 10 knots, it takes 38 days to sail to the Persian Gulf from Naval Station Norfolk, versus 41 days from Naval Station Mayport. From the West Coast sailing times increase significantly, whether from San Diego (47 days), or Seattle (44 days). At a carrier strike group cost of $6.5 million/day[1], the fuel and logistics to support additional transit days are substantial. Pearl Harbor is the only base that would offer a comparable distance to the Persian Gulf (40 days), but forces committed to Hawaii should be forces committed to USINDOPACOM.

Moreover, the positioning of our fleet must not only consider the imminent and intermediate threats we face, but the long-term economic successes of the United States that rely on secure operations. The Port of Virginia remains a critical economic asset, and Norfolk-based ships protect both this and the Port of New York, among other economic entities. The security of these assets is imperative not only to our economic viability, but to the global economy.

As we build new manned and unmanned ships in accordance with our Future Naval Force Structure, we urge strong consideration in maintaining a robust presence at Norfolk Naval Shipyard that challenges our infrastructure to grow and thrive, so as to solidify those capabilities for a time of need.


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