By: Kevin J. Ayres

Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carriers of the United States Navy

Currently, the Navy utilizes 11 active aircraft carrier ship, who are all nuclear powered (CVNs). The carriers are just about evenly dispersed between the two coasts of the United States, the Atlantic Fleet and Pacific Fleet. The six CVNs assigned to the Pacific region are also dispersed among bases at California, Everett, Bremerton of the United States and Yokosuka, Japan.

The Pacific Fleet
  • The USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) are located at Naval Station Everett in Everett, Washington on Puget Sound.
  • The USS John C Stennis (CVN-74) is located at Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton, Washington on Puget Sound.
  • The USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) are located at Naval Station North Island in San Diego, California.
  • The USS George Washington (CVN-73) is located at Yokosuka Naval Base in Yokosuka, Japan.

The Atlantic Fleet
The five CVN’s assigned to the Atlantic region are all located at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk Virginia; they include:
  • USS Enterprise (CVN-65)
  • USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69)
  • USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71)
  • USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75)
  • USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77)
(Tillery, 2010)

Future Plans/Current Actions
Future plans regarding the Navy’s nuclear air carriers include the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) ,upon its return from construction (2015), taking the place of the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) as it get ready to be decommissioned after being world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier commissioned 25 December 1961. There are two nuclear aircraft carriers who fall under the category of “Planned” and remains unnamed; the CVN-79 is intended to begin construction in 20102 and commissioned in 2019, and the CVN-80 is scheduled for commission in 2023. Since the 1960, the Navy has been replacing the older conventionally powered carriers (CV’s) for the new CVN’s. The Navy achieved an all-CVN carrier force on January 31, 2009 (O'Rourke, 2011).

The Proposal

All five of the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet Nuclear powered aircraft carriers (CVNs) are stationed at NS Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia. The Navy has very high interest in establishing a second Atlantic Fleet CVN home port by stationing a nuclear powered air carrier (CVN) at Naval Station Mayport, near Jacksonville, Florida.

NS Norfolk
“Naval Station Norfolk is the Navy’s largest Atlantic Fleet home port. As of early-February 2009, 56 ships of various types—CVNs, attack submarines (SSNs), cruisers (CGs), destroyers, (DDGs), frigates (FFGs), large-deck amphibious assault ships (LHAs/LHDs), and other amphibious ships (LPDs)—were homeported at Norfolk. The home port at Little Creek, VA, is roughly 7 nautical miles to the east of Norfolk (depending on the exact points used to measure the distance), on the same side of the Hampton Roads waterway, and is sometimes referred to as Norfolk (Little Creek). Nine amphibious ships (LSDs) and patrol boats (PCs) were homeported there as of early-February 2009(O'Rourke, 2011).”

NS Mayport
Mayport is located in the north east part of Florida on the Atlantic coast, roughly 469 nautical miles south-southwest of Norfolk, Virginia. Naval Station Mayport is the Navy’s second-largest Atlantic Fleet homeport next to NS Norfolk. Mayport has been a homeport for 20 Naval Cruisers ships, 20 Naval Frigate ships and 20 Naval Destroyer ship as of February, 2009 and served as a CV homeport at various time since the 1950’s. The homeporting of Naval ships at Mayport has reached its peak of more than 30 ships, including two CVs in 1987; the same year the Navy reached its peak of 568 ships, including 15 Cvs and CVNs (O'Rourke, 2011).

On January 14, 2009, the Navy announced and proposed its intention to the government, where Obama Administration official declared it would review the proposal. Later April 10, 2009, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced that the proposal would be reviewed within the issues of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) where the final decision to propose transferring a CVN to Mayport would be made. The DOD’s final report on the 2010 QDR on February 1, 2010 endorsed the Navy’s desire to establish a second Atlantic Fleet CVN homeport in Mayport, FL. The reported stated “ to mitigate the risk of a terrorist attack, or natural disaster, the U.S. Navy will homeport an East Coast carrier in Mayport, Florida.” On December 8, 2010, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus also reportedly reaffirmed the Navy’s desire of establishing the CVN homeport at Mayport.” The Navy has the high intentions of being its plan as soon as possible, looking to have Mayport ready to homeport a CVN by 2019(O'Rourke, 2011).

The Defense Budget

In reference to the FY2010 defense budget, Congress has only approved funding for one of the necessary military construction(MilCon) project which is the request for 46.3 million for dredging. This action has put a major set back on the long term goal of the Navy to transferring a CVN to Mayport in 2014, but if there was any possibility of the occurrence, all the necessary MilCon would have needed to be funded in the FY2010 budget as well (O'Rourke, 2011).

As for the FY2011 defense budget with curious status of being either accepted or rejected, the Navy requested a total funding of 120.05 million for MilCon planning and design activities; where only $2 million of the total is for the intended project of establishing the CVN homeport at Mayport (O'Rourke, 2011).

The Administration was expected to have submitted its proposed FY2012 defense budget to Congress around February 14, 2011 (O'Rourke, 2011), so its assumed its already in the hands of Congress. The issue for Congress is whether to approve, reject, or modify the Department of Defense’s proposal to transfer a CVN to Mayport, therefore making Naval Station Mayport the second Atlantic Fleet CVN homeport.

The Significance
The decisions made by Congress holds a significant about of weight possibly affecting the Navy’s capabilities as defense system for the United States of America as well as funding requirements for the project and the local economies of Mayport and Norfolk.

“Go ahead Congress, make a decision, no pressure.” :-)

The Numbers

Q: What are the economical factors that must be taken into consideration by Congress as it makes the choices where to approve, reject or modify the requested funding proposed by the Navy?

A1: The Technological Standpoint

Although history has shown, NS Mayport as a previous homeport for conventional powered carriers , the naval base has never been a homeport CVN; the base is incapable of providing a nuclear powered aircraft carrier (CVN) as of right now. NS Mayport requires an abundant amount of facility upgrades to be capable of being a homeport for such a nuclear machine. The technological upgrade done to NS Mayport would include dredging and the construction of CVN nuclear propulsion plant maintenance facilities.

A2: The Non-recurring Costs

The Navy has estimated the nonrecurring cost of transferring a CVN to Mayport would be at $589.7 million. This hefty expense for the projects includes $490.7 million in MilCon funding for the construction work at Mayport to even make it capable of homeporting a CVN, and $99 million which take into account the initial outfitting for the Controlled Industrial Facility and Ship Maintenance Facility, and the Personal Change of Mayport; the general one-time costs of basically equipping Mayport technologically with what it need to operate as a CVN homeport base. TABLE I represents the non-recurring cost and requested funding estimates from the Navy below which according to the notes* are subject to change most likely meaning a increase. [ see TABLE I ]

Table 1. Estimated Non-Recurring Cost To Transfer a CVN to Mayport
(Millions of dollars, rounded to the nearest tenth; figures may not add due to rounding)
Item Estimated cost
Military Construction (MilCon) Costs
Planning and design (P&D) 30.0
Dredging 46.3
Parking 30.9
Road improvements 15.9
Wharf F improvements 42.1
Controlled Industrial Facility (CIF) 150.7
Ship Maintenance Facility (SMF) 74.8
Subtotal MilCon Costs 490.7
Other One-Time Costs
Initial outfitting for CIF and SMF 73.0
Personnel Change of Station (PCS) 26.0
Subtotal Other One-Time Costs 99.0
TOTAL 589.7
Source: Navy information paper dated February 25, 2010, provided to CRS by Navy Office of legislative Affairs.
Notes: The Navy information paper states that the costs shown “represent Rough ORder of Magnitude (ROM) [estimates] and will be subsequently amended prior to the annual budget submission” that “costs are subject to change as specific projects get programmed for future execution,” and that “The projected dollars values may adjust based on the timing of execution.”
(O'Rourke, 2011)

A3: The Recurring Costs

The Navy has given a rough estimated annual recurring cost of $25.5 million (previously estimate of $20.4 million). The various expenses which make up the recurring cost is very similar to the situation of the non-recurring, having a extremely high interest in changing. It may not be “over-fetched” to even say the this recurring cost has a higher and more likelihood of changing than any other cost. This conclusion can merely and logically supported by taking into account of the unexpected problems, technological malfunctions, simple the idea of Murphy’s law which states “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. Nothing can be expect to run properly all the time especially something as complex as nuclear power. However, this recurring cost is based on the approximated annual cost of:

Estimated Recurring Costs
  • Base Operating Support and Sustainment, Restoration, and Modernization at $12.9 million
  • Operations for Transitory Maintenance Operations at $8.3 million
  • Permanent on-site labor at $5 million
  • Bi-annual Maintenance Dredging at 0.1 million per year
Source: Department of Defense information paper responding to questions from CRS, dated December 23, 2008, and provided to CRS on January 6, 2009
(O'Rourke, 2011)

The Viewpoints

The DOD’s proposal to homeport a CVN at Mayport has become an issue for members of Congress for both Florida and Virginia, all expressing inconstant positions regarding the intension of the Navy. There are multiple members of Congress from Florida who express very high support of the proposal to homeport at Mayport as a very small amount not favoring the idea so much. There are members of Congress from Virginia who express their points of disapproval and opposition to DOD and the Navy, giving the benefit of the doubt that there are also member who don’t question the proposal so much.


The Strategic Benefits
The most significant logical argument for the DOD and Navy’s proposal for such a “high dollar” project is based on its “strategic laydown analysis” and response to the large possibility of breach within our National Security. The strategic laydown analysis is based upon a projected larger size Navy in the future years to come; as well as on the basis of apportioning the Navy among the Pacific and Atlantic Fleet. The primary reason for establishing a CVN homeport at Mayport is “to mitigate the risk of a terrorist attack, accident or natural disaster, the U.S. Navy will homeport an East Coast Carrier in Mayport, Florida” (O'Rourke, 2011). According to Admiral Gary Rough, Chief of Naval Operation, testimony to Congress stated “a catastrophic event in the Hampton Roads Area affecting port facilities, shipping channels, supporting maintenance or training infrastructure or the surrounding community has the potential to severely limit East Coast Carrier operations even if the ships themselves are not affect….the national security benefits of this additional homeport far overweighs those costs” (O'Rourke, 2011).

The idea of being at least partially congruent with the West Pacific Fleet’s strategic layout of dispersion is very important in regards to how the Atlantic Fleet should be assigned as well. The inconsistence along the Atlantic region is portrayed as a higher possible target for manmade calamity or terrorism by foreign nations; however the risk toward facilities and military personnel can be reduced by the dispersion of the security force along the coast. As NS Norfolk is the homeport to all five carriers of the Atlantic Fleet, it is the only location U.S. capable of CVN construction, maintenance and repair and refueling, in addition to where all CVN trained crews and association community support are stationed. With this singular and limit expansion way of operation by the Atlantic Fleet CVNs, there is no strategic options for CVN naval operations outside of the Norfolk area. After reviewing all the possible alternatives, the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) supports the proposal of the DOD and the Navy in the final statement: “Utilizing the capacity at NS Mayport to homeport a CVN disperses critical Atlantic Fleet assets to reduce risks, thereby enhancing operational readiness. Operational readiness is fundamental to the Navy’s mission and obligation to the Commander in Chief (O'Rourke, 2011).”

Q: What are the possible economic benefits of the proposed plan by the DOD and Navy?

A: The Economic Benefit
In addition to adding a CVN from Norfolk to Mayport, the local economic activity complementing the homeporting of CVN would also shift from Norfolk to Mayport; some sources estimating the notion as being worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year. The Regional Chamber of Commerce estimated a carrier creates 11,000 jobs, and $ 650 million in annual economic activity. Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton stated in a press report that the new CVN would create about 3,190 military jobs pumping $500 million a year into the north Florida economy in salaries and spending. There is speculation within press reports by Virginians who state that the economic activity related to such a carrier can reach up to $1 billion a year. The Navy estimated that the initial sum of military construction work at Mayport reaching over $400 million would generate a total of about $700 in initial economic activity(estimated economic benefit) (O'Rourke, 2011).

With such wide speculations and estimates about the economic benefits of the CVN homeport in Mayport, one general assumption is for certain; a CVN would generate substantial economic activity in the homeport area. The activities would include the hire of thousands of sailors for the labor of the project, sailors spending their pay to local business caused the projects, the Navy’s purchasing of supplies for the ship from local businesses and the Navy expenditures for performing maintenance on the ship while it is in the homeport.


Members of Congress have expressed very high amounts of skepticism regarding the transfer of a CVN to the Mayport area; along with arguing that the benefits in terms of minimizing the risks Navy’s Atlantic Fleet CVNs is only questionable and not required. A high percentage of this member of Congress are from Virginia as they make the viewpoint that the funding needed to implement the proposal could achieve greater benefits it was spent on the priorities of the Navy.

The Inconsistency
Q: What are the economics issues and possible falsehoods, Congress is faced with as it evaluates the proposal to transfer a CVN to Mayport, FL?

A: The Issues
A large issue facing Congress in the decision whether to be fully committed to the proposal of transferring a CVN to Mayport is the inconsistency of the Navy and DOD’s representation of funding requests and expense for the project. Congress has no real liable figures so its capable of weighing the options of the situation because the request funding too variable. The Navy and DOD are portraying a grand fluctuation in the price they’re proposing to Congress, along with the proposal of graphical representation without any means of control only reasonable doubt of consistence. The initial non-recurring cost of the transferring the CVN to Mayport in 2008 was $565 million where in February 2010 estimates have reach to the cost of $589.7 million. Table I shows the breakdown of this estimate. The recurring cost estimated in 2008 for the transfer of a CVN to Mayport was projected to be $20.4 million, compared to the current recurring of $25.5 million. Another more recent inconsistence pertains to the FY 2011 where $120.05 million is the funding requested by the Navy for MilCon planning and design activities; only about 2 million of the total value is for the project to establish a CVN homeport at Mayport.

Strategic Failure
Congress also recognizes the rational intentions of the DOD and Navy but its most important for Congress, in making such a highly dependent decision, to be even more logical and rational on a higher level. Congress must evaluate and take into account the unexpected failure that make occur because simply a task is never as easily done as its easily said. For example, the strategic laydown analysis; “this analysis projected a future fleet of 313 ships (including 11 CVNs), of which 181 ships(including 6 CVNs) would be assigned to the Pacific Fleet and 132 ships (including 5 CVNs) would be assigned to the Atlantic Fleet.” Considering the Navy’s intentions, there are very high uncertainties about the Navy’s affordability of its shipbuilding plans.

Transit Times
It also important that the Navy has taken into account the indirect non-monetary benefits of Norfolk and Mayport such as transit times to key destinations. Based on graphical representation in Table 3, there’s proof that the transit times to key destinations are actually fastest from Norfolk compared to Mayport. This inconsistency serves as a directly example of uncertainty of why a new location of the CVN should be located else where, when it’s a proven fact that the most efficient route is from NS Norfolk.

Table 3. Transit Times To Key Destinations
In days, as a function of transit speed
Transit speed
Destination: From/14 knots/20 knots
Strait of Gibraltar: Mayport/ 11.1/ 7.6
Norfolk/ 9.9/ 7.0

Cape of Good Hope: Mayport/ 34.8/ 24.4
Norfolk 34.8/ 24.3

Puerto Rico: Mayport 6.2/ 4.3
Norfolk 6.9/ 4.8

Source: Navy briefing slide entitled “Average Transit Times East/West,” in Navy briefing entitled “Final
Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Proposed Homeporting of Additional Surface Ships at Naval Station Mayport, FL,” November 18, 2008, presented to CRS on December 5, 2008; and (for Puerto Rico) Department of Defense information paper responding to questions from CRS, dated December 23, 2008 and provided to CRS on January 6, 2009.
(O'Rourke, 2011)

Environmental Analysis
Considering “the adequacy of the FEIS that the Navy prepared to assess the potential environmental impacts of locating a nuclear carrier at Mayport. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires all federal agencies to prepare environmental impact statements for major actions that would significantly affect the environment. The scope of the statements are broader than the environment per se, as agencies are required to examine not only the potential impacts on the natural environment but also the socioeconomic impacts of a proposed action. Some observers have questioned whether the Navy thoroughly assessed these sets of impacts when it selected Mayport for the location of a CVN.”

Potential Targets
Congress must taken into consideration adequate likelihood a natural or man-made disaster would even occur; Congress facing the possibility of these assumptions which are meant to be mitigated may not come into occurrence. Its also very logical to draw the conclusion that potential man-made disasters or terrorist attacks by foreign countries are not just limited to nuclear military attacks, any naval bases or places within the U.S. are potential targets at any given time.

These are the facts, the very reasons why skepticism, doubt and uncertainty has members of Congress questionable in regards to the true benefits of the proposal being outlandish. If the DOD and Navy has underestimated or overestimated the cost or even the complexity of the project now or futuristically, it’s a high possibility of weakening the argument for homeporting a CVN at Mayport.

The Alternatives

Q: What alternatives are available other the initial proposal by the DOD and the Navy? What effect does the available alternatives have in reference to the costs and other external factors compared to the decision the DOD and Navy are trying to make?

“A Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on Mayport homeporting alternatives was released in November 2008. The FEIS examined 12 alternatives for homeporting additional surface ships at Mayport. Four of the 12 alternatives involved homeporting a CVN; another four involved making Mayport capable of homeporting a CVN, but not immediately homeporting a CVN there; and the remaining four did not involve making Mayport capable of homeporting a CVN. Ten of the 12 alternatives also involved transferring additional ships other than a CVN various combinations of cruisers, destroyers, frigates, large-deck amphibious assault ships (LHDs), and other amphibious ships (LPDs and LSDs) to Mayport. The FEIS also assessed a 13th alternative of homeporting no additional ships at Mayport.” (O'Rourke, 2011)

Considering the one the alternative from the FEIS mentioned “homeporting some number of Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs) at Mayport. LCSs, which are just beginning to enter service with the Navy, are somewhat smaller than the Navy’s frigates, and are to have much smaller crews. The Navy reported to Congress in February 2010 that the service envisages Mayport is as the primary Atlantic Fleet homeporting location for the Navy’s new LCSs. (The report identifies Little Creek, VA, as the Navy’s envisaged secondary Atlantic Fleet LCS homeporting location, and Norfolk as the Navy’s envisaged tertiary Atlantic Fleet LCS homeporting location.) Another possibility would be to homeport two CVNs rather than one CVN at Mayport. As mentioned earlier, Mayport served as a home port for two CVs for several years during the 1980s.” (O'Rourke, 2011)


After all the possible alternatives had been proposed, is it honestly safe to say that the Navy and DOD took them all into account before continuing with its initial proposal of transferring the CVN to Mayport? If so, is it safer to a even greater extent to state that after reviewing all the possible non-recurring and recurring costs including all the possible risks and benefits(economical and non-monetary) of each alternatives that the best possible solution was the initial proposal and that no other alternative resulted in a more reasonable, yet favorable calculation of cost, benefits, and minimal risk more suitable for our nation overall, given the current status of our Country on all levels of functionality??

I must say again, as I said at the beginning: “Go ahead Congress, make a decision, no pressure." :-)


O'Rourke, Ronald. Congressional Research Service, Naval Affairs . (2011). Navy nuclear aircraft carrier (cvn) homeporting at mayport: background and issues for congress (7-5700). Washington,DC: United States Congress. Retrieved from

Tillery, Marie. (2010, October 12). Aircraft carriers-cvn. Retrieved from