PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) says he is not opposed to alternative energy sources for the military but in the current fiscal climate, Webb believes that the Department of Defense needs to invest in the national defense.
A delay in the repairs being done on the USS Nimitz and a current strategy requiring a two-carrier presence in the Mediterranean and Gulf Areas will force the navy to put USS Eisenhower back to sea sooner than planned.
On top of that, the Navy is deploying more assets to the Pacific.
"We're moving into a period where we're going to need the navy more and more," Webb said.
But this has been a period of less and less for the fleet, currently down to 287 operational combatant vessels.
"We've been trying to rebuild the Navy up to a minimum of 313 ships," Webb said. "When I was Secretary of the Navy, we had 568 ships."
Webb was in that position more than 25 years ago, but even with today's smaller fleet, the Navy buys a lot of diesel fuel.
"In fiscal year 2012, we saw a $500 million bill to the Navy," Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Tom Hicks said. "[We saw] a bill that we didn't anticipate. A bill we had to pay for by flying less, steaming less, sustaining our facilities less..."
Hicks toured a Naval steam plant In Portsmouth recently running on B-20, a mixture of biodeisel and traditional fuel.
"We may save up to $15,000 [in Portsmouth] this year," Hicks said. "The bottom lines is that these fuels are competitively priced."
Webb points to a provision in the 2013 defense budget that requested funding for the Navy to team with the Private Sector and the Department of Energy to produce alternative fuels.
"It was about a $171 million for one year to do that," Webb said. "That's half of a ship."
Webb does acknowledge the need to explore alternative forms of energy.
"But at the same time, lets run the Department of Defense," Webb said.
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