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Politics

In Congress, Ander Crenshaw Steers Federal Money to Jacksonville Military Bases

July 13, 2010 - 6:00pm

On Wednesday, Republican U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw commented on an appropriations bill moving through the U.S. House that could pay dividends for Jacksonville and its strong Navy presence.

The bill passed through the Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies on which Crenshaw sits.

The Florida congressmans fingers are all over the measure -- namely in luring money to the First Coasts military bases. Crenshaw added to an appropriations bill $2 million to help lure a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to Mayport Naval Station in Duval County.

Approval of planning and design funds for Naval Station Mayport represents another welcome step toward making this base into a nuclear carrier home port, said Crenshaw.

With Pentagon brass agreeing to send a carrier to Jacksonville back in January 2010, the congressman said, "Now the focus turns to directing the funds toward projects that are necessary to make this base nuclear ready. On Tuesday, I encouraged Chief Naval Officer Gary Roughead to take steps to nuclearize Mayport as quickly as possible, and I am pleased that todays subcommittee action moves us in that direction.

While Mayport has traditionally housed aircraft carriers, there have not been any stationed since 2007, when the USS John F. Kennedy was decommissioned. Members of the Florida congressional delegation, led by Crenshaw, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and both U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and George LeMieux, have aggressively pushed for a carrier to be stationed at Mayport.

Crenshaw also was able to add almost $75 million in the appropriations act to help logistical efforts for the Marine Corps on Blount Island -- one of the major ports for Jacksonvilles shipping economy.

United States Marine Corps Command at Blount Island is also deserving of funding to help expand its capability to accept more equipment returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and service our pre-positioning ships and equipment more efficiently, said Crenshaw. Resources targeted for expanding storage capabilities, overhauling equipment, and shipping play an integral role in making sure our Marines receive well-maintained equipment in a timely manner.

I look forward to stewarding these initiatives through the remaining portion of the appropriations process, added Crenshaw. I am confident that Congress will ultimately approve these projects that our troops and veterans deserve and our military leaders say this country needs.

Crenshaw added to the appropriations measure an amendment sending $14 million to the VA to administer the various aspects of the GI Bill of Rights in a timely fashion. This is an important issue on the First Coast. Florida State College at Jacksonville leads the nation in the number of veterans enrolled at the school. Other schools on the First Coast -- namely the University of North Florida and Jacksonville University -- also have large numbers of veterans taking classes.

We have all supported and lauded the benefits of the new GI education benefits bill, but we have all heard complaints from angry veterans who begin a semester in college only to have their tuition bill still unpaid months later, said Crenshaw. We must ensure this does not continue to happen and the only way to guarantee that claims get paid in a timely fashion is to have enough processors. The VA is projecting a 31 percent work-load increase in education claims between fiscal year 2009 and fiscal year 2011, making this measure more important than ever.

The son-in-law of legendary former Gov. Claude Kirk, the first Republican to hold that office since Reconstruction, Crenshaw has been active in Florida politics for the better part of four decades. He served in the House during the 1970s, placed third in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in 1980 and went on to serve two terms in the Senate. Crenshaw would eventually serve a year as Senate president, the first Republican to do so since Reconstruction. After placing fourth in the 1994 Republican gubernatorial primary, Crenshaw would re-emerge in 2000 when U.S. Rep. Tillie Fowler retired from Congress.

Running for a sixth term in November, Crenshaw has not drawn a Democratic opponent. Crenshaw faces a challenge from Navy veteran Troy Stanley, who dropped out of the Republican race to continue running without party affiliation. As of June 30, Crenshaw had almost $775,000 cash on hand.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com, or at 850-727-0859.

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