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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The Navy’s cost estimate to build homeport facilities for an aircraft carrier at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., is hundreds of millions of dollars higher than necessary, the General Accountability Office stated in a report released Thursday.

The GAO estimated it would take between $258 million and $356 million in one-time costs to create a home for a nuclear-powered carrier at the northeast Florida base, far less than the Navy’s $537 million estimate.

The biggest discrepancy came in the estimate for the carrier’s maintenance facilities, which the GAO estimated at $45.6 million, but the Navy tagged at $157 million.

Navy officials attributed the difference to “the increased cost involved in protecting the buildings from a potential storm surge associated with a Category 4 hurricane,” according to the GAO report.

The GAO responded that it had factored in storm concerns.

The report added that while the GAO used actual costs from similar construction projects to produce its estimate, the Navy only relied on an engineering estimate.

“Without fully meeting the characteristics of a high-quality estimate, the Navy’s ability to present a convincing argument of the estimate’s affordability and credibly answer decision makers’ and oversight groups’ questions about the estimate is hampered,” the report stated.

The Navy decided to homeport a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier near Jacksonville after a 2001 review called for the Navy to spread its assets to more locations. Currently, most of the East Coast fleet is headquartered in the Norfolk, Va. area.

Until the conventionally-powered USS John F. Kennedy was retired in 2007, Mayport had hosted non-nuclear-powered aircraft carriers for decades. Currently, all U.S. carriers are nuclear powered.

Defense Department officials partially agreed to GAO recommendations that would require the Navy to more closely document projected costs. The department disagreed with GAO’s recommendation to assign a single office with the task of assembling a comprehensive cost estimate.

slavine@pstripes.osd.mil

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