The U.S. Navy plans to homeport at least one and perhaps two additional aircraft carriers and several more surface ships in San Diego by 2017, the commander of Navy Region Southwest told the City Council Monday.
The Pentagon recently announced a shift of focus for U.S. military forces toward Asia and the Pacific Ocean, making bases in San Diego ripe for expansion, Rear Adm. Dixon Smith said.
"We anticipate the return of a second aircraft carrier, and we will maintain -- we do maintain -- the capability for three," Smith said.
The number of aircraft carriers based in San Diego Bay has fluctuated in recent weeks as ships have been transferred and gone into yearlong retrofitting. Only the USS Carl Vinson, currently deployed off Pakistan, is based locally.
"Littoral combat ships," a new class of vessel designed to operate in coastal waters, are also set to be based in San Diego.
A Navy report submitted to the city says two additional aircraft carriers and 10 more surface ships might come to the region, but Smith cautioned that those estimates were by no means firm.
"I can't give a timeline or specific numbers because we just don't know," Smith told City News Service. "We know we'll see growth; I just can't say when."
The Navy has 58 surface ships based in San Diego, plus a half-dozen submarines.
Smith said the Navy has a $30.5 billion annual economic impact on San Diego, and that 26 percent of all jobs in the region are Defense Department-related.
The Navy report estimates that growth could result in 8,100 more sailors stationed in San Diego in the future, bringing with them 6,700 family members.
San Diego State University economics professor Dan Seiver told 10News there will be significant impact but not a huge impact.
"The really good news is that instead of a reduction in military spending in the area, we probably get some kind of increase. I think it's good. It could create a few extra jobs and it'll plug in some extra income into the area," Seiver.
Smith summed it up, "We are executing our defense strategy; the Navy strategy from San Diego. We are an integral partner with San Diego; not only are we an economic engine but we are an engaged neighbor."
"We are extremely fortunate to have the impact of the Navy that we do, and cannot, nor will we, take that for granted," Councilman Kevin Faulconer said.
Councilman Carl DeMaio added, "We want to make sure that your operations in our city are efficient and effective and whatever we can do to help, you let us know."
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