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Senator Mikulski Takes On Navy Over Fate Of USNS Comfort

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It was Mikulski vs. the Navy on Capitol Hill, in a tug of war over the hospital ship Comfort and whether it would stay in Baltimore or move to Virginia.

Alex DeMetrick has the details of the exchange.

It was a friendly enough exchange of heart versus the bottom line.

When news broke the Navy hospital ship Comfort was being moved from Baltimore to Norfolk, civilian contractors who have been supporting the ship for the past 25 years were pinning their hopes on Maryland’s senior senator.

“Maybe Barbara Mikulski will pull a rabbit out of her hat and the Comfort will stay around for a couple of years,” said Steve Cieslak, Harris Fire Protection.

And on Capitol Hill, Mikulski tried working magic on the Secretary of the Navy.

“If you were in Baltimore when we heard the Comfort was going to leave us, we’ve had the same feeling as when the Colts left us,” Mikulski said. “I’m not joking. We love the Comfort.”

But it’s finance, not affection, that moves the Navy.

“We will save in excess of two million dollars a year to move the Comfort,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

In rent it won’t have to pay for a pier in Baltimore, in cost savings of being close to naval supplies and the doctors and nurses who staff the ship in times of war and disaster.

“The bulk of our medical staff actually comes from Portsmouth Navy Hospital, which is in Virginia, probably about 20 miles from where the ship will be stationed,” said U.S. Navy Captain David Weiss.

So Mikulski pitched hurricanes and Baltimore’s protected port vs. getting out of the way in Norfolk.

“You’re in a hurricane. The Comfort’s out at sea, riding it out. What would you have to do to get ready to deploy?” Mikulski asked.

“I’d have to get back to you on that and see what it would be,” said U.S. Navy Admiral Jonathan Greenert.

“I’d like you to look at that impact and see if it affects your judgment so we get to keep the Comfort,” Mikulski replied.

If the hurricane strategy doesn’t work, Mikulski asked the Navy to consider sending another to Baltimore.

Right now, the Comfort is set to leave Baltimore one year from now.

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