Home » Budget Industry » NAVSEA On ‘Road to Recovery’ To Rebuilding Naval Shipyard Workforce


NAVSEA On ‘Road to Recovery’ To Rebuilding Naval Shipyard Workforce

An undated photo of a worker at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. US Navy Photo

An undated photo of a worker at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. US Navy Photo

The Naval Sea Systems Command “is well down the road to recovery” in rebuilding the Navy’s shipyard civilian workforce, but there is a bow wave of experience that was lost three years ago—through a long hiring and pay freeze and across-the-board cuts to facilities—that it has to overcome, the Senate Armed Services Readiness and Management Support subcommittee was told Tuesday.

Vice Adm. William Hilarides testified that the workforce has actually grown by 4,000 workers to 33,000. “Now training is the challenge,” and that includes bringing in contract civilian trainers to work with new supervisors on how to manage workers and production flow.

The Navy actually brought in about 11,000 civilian workers to its shipyards to cover natural attrition and overcome the yearlong hiring freeze brought on by sequestration in 2013. To speed the hiring (from the usual six-months from applying to actually being hired), he said the Navy streamlined procedures covering physicals and clearances in opening one-stop centers. He added the Navy remained careful about whom it hired because these employees tended to make a career of shipyard work.

“We specifically went after all those barriers,” he said in answer to a question.

“We use that data [on how long work is taking on different classes of ships and whether the work is hewing to budget] to make the case for hiring.” He said the command is just now starting to size Puget Sound and Norfolk, the two largest public shipyards, for a workload that includes refueling ballistic-missile submarines and overhauling nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, as well as maintenance on other warships.

Of the new workers’ quality, Hilarides added, “They do know their work directly affects global events.”

Members of the panel representing states that have public shipyards—Portsmouth (ME), Norfolk (VA), Puget Sound (Wash.) and Pearl Harbo (Hawaii)—indicated a willingness to re-examine temporary duty pay for workers on extended duty at other locations.

Hilarides said the exemption would apply to a very defined group of workers—such as welders away from their home yard for more than 30 days. “This is hard physical work. They are volunteers” often working 10 to 12 hours daily, he added, and they do not have the time to shop and cook in rented quarters, so they eat at the closest fast-food restaurants for convenience.

“We want them to go as a team” for three to six months, so the work can move more efficiently.

While it varies by bargaining unit, he said he believed that it was generally true because of the quirk in the TDY pay regulations the most qualified workers would more likely decline the extended away-from-home assignment.

Chairwoman Sen. Kelly Ayotte, (R-N.H.), noted that one of the consequences of the TDY pay regulation after 30 days was causing costs to rise because the work was taking longer and workers’ unwillingness to stay beyond a month, a point Hilarides made in a letter earlier this year.

Vice Adm. Dixon Smith, head of Installation Command, said in prioritizing risk to rebuilding infrastructure the Navy is exceeding the 6 percent modernization target set for its shipyards with funding at 85 percent of recommended spending and 100 percent to the nuclear facilities.

In looking at all other Navy facilities, “we’re not gaining ground.”

To meet the modernization standards set in 2013, as sequestration was beginning, Hilarides said would take 15 years. He added that new dry docks for Ford-class carriers and Virginia-class submarines would probably “do that just in time,” possibly 10 years after the first ships are commissioned.

  • DaSaint

    Wouldn’t it be great if the next President publicly emphasized increased naval and commercial shipbuilding as an economic development and workforce development driver. More shipbiulding, more yards, more competition, lower prices,.

    • Ctrot

      There are few ways that government spending is more efficient in injecting cash into the economy than through increased defense spending. Defense industry jobs are generally high pay and high tech. If just a quarter of the 2009 stimulus money had been spent on military procurement (ships, aircraft etc.) the economic benefit would have probably exceeded the result of the other 75%.

      • DaSaint

        Can’t necessarily agree with that. Most defense spending goes to maybe 10 companies. They have no real competition and therefore costs are high. What would it cost you if you could only go to Ford or GM and could not buy a foreign built car?

        Defense spending is vital, but needs reform and competition. Look at what competition is doing to the Space Industry. It’s deiving down costs and spurring innovation.

        • NavySubNuke

          Costs are high because the workers are highly paid —- which is why he said there would be greater economic impact. Remember that US defense dollars are spent on US workers assembling US built manufactured goods into finished products.
          Unlike Ford who now has Mexican workers putting your car together for $1.25/hour.

          • DaSaint

            That’s only part of the problem. Lack of competition is the other. Basic economics.

          • NavySubNuke

            But money doesn’t just evaporate because of lack of competition —- what he was saying is that the money actually goes somewhere and with defense spending that is somewhere in the US. A big pot of it goes to the workers and to the sub-tier suppliers (who are also Americans) and another part of it goes to the corporations themselves – which are American companies with American share holders. So lack of competition may make prices higher for DoD (and I actually doubt that – a much bigger reason why prices are high is wages and lack of economic order quantities — it just costs more per item to make a few hundred of something, especially something complex, than it does to make thousands and tens of thousands of the same thing) but the money still generates economic impact in America.

  • John B. Morgen

    One of the main problems that I have found and experienced when working for the DOD, and that is the DOD outsources government projects out to private companies; instead, using Federal workers that could the same jobs. Outsourcing erodes the civilian work force, so stop outsourcing…..

    • Secundius

      In Congress, Outsourcing Get’s You RICH. Just Ask Darrell Issa…

      • John B. Morgen

        Outsourcing erodes away the Federal workforce down to a point, that they become ineffective. I have seen this happen working on USMC bases. It is just another way for GOP to get rid of the Federal government as an effective organization. Yes! Outsourcing will make you rich if you’re a private contractor.

        • Secundius

          At least 2/3’s of the Richest Congressman/women Outsource (TOO the PRC). Their NOT going to Kill the “Golden Peking Duck”, for ANY REASON…

          • John B. Morgen

            Then the problem will continue, and the Chinese/Russian navies have won because of our bloody governmental system is so screwed up, beyond the point of no repair. I’ll have Peking Duck with egg fried rice—thank you.

          • Secundius

            Keep In Mind, these are the SAME Congressman/women that “Support” Our Military. SOME SUPPORT? One Quarter on Food Stamps, Tricare Doubled, Money Removed for the VA Benefits. 9/11 to place 15-years ago, and their ONLY NOW Addressing the “First Responder” Health Care Issue. It’s Cheaper to Provide Coverage to a Few Hundred, than it is to Support OVER 3,000…

          • John B. Morgen

            Congress doesn’t know the right thing to do, except for making contractors richer and making the middle class poorer. There’s a lot that needs to get done in the bloody nation-state of ours. There is really no clear resolution to clean up this mess, except for removing the existing government, and restart from the [“keel up’], with a new United States Constitution and form of government. That’s the only way, but I’m [NOT] referring to having elections because they failed. What we need a much better approach than what we have now. If we don’t clear up this bloody mess, we could be speaking Chinese, and eating a lot more rice.

          • Secundius

            Bad Idea, A “Civil War” NOW. Leaves us Defenseless, with BOTH the PRC and Russia at Our Throats. And North Korea, FEELING “Frisky” with their own Self Importance “Trying To Stab Us In the Back”…

          • John B. Morgen

            Another American Civil War is quite possible for this century because there are sharp [profound] divisions that are getting much deeper and wider than ever before. There is breaking point to this bloody madness, and yes such a Civil War could change the world when we are divided and at war against one another; thus, both China and Russia could do whatever they want; including North Korea. Again, this could happen, regardless what you and I wanted it or not. The American Roman Empire [must] change, or it will destroy itself. We need prudent change in order to keep and maintain order, so we could rebuild the Civil Service, and build more warships to protect our interests.

          • Secundius

            ONLY One Slight Problem with Civil War, Though. Procaimation 104: The Suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus Act of 1863. Which Make’s ANY Civil War an Act of Treason. And the Forfeiture NOT ONLY to Life, BUT to ALL Personal Properties ANYWHERE. Part of the Patriot Act. It Also Suspends, the Posse Comitatus Act. Executive Order of President Abraham Lincoln…

          • John B. Morgen

            There’s really no problem once the Second American Civil War begins and ends because such Federal laws or any other acts are irrelevant; if both sides come to a draw. However, the winning side will be making the rules at the vanquished expense. Even if the Federal government survives, I suspect it would [not] be the same before the war had gotten started. I think the American Roman Empire would be broken up into a few regional nation-states, just what happen to Russia and the former Yugoslavia.
            In sum, the United States will not be same, or be able enough to recover from such a profound conflict. We have such profound divisions of beliefs that many sides disagreed about. So beware Secundius….

          • Secundius

            That’s only if you WIN. In more than 150-years since Lincoln’s Death, No Sitting President has even made a Attemp in Removing The Act. That tell’s you something Right There…

          • John B. Morgen

            Winning is very important which I agreed, but we have seen many regimes come and go after wars have ended. The United States may win or lose, it really depends if the people want to continue with the same regime, or seek major changes with a [new] regime and with a new Constitution…..In other words, empires come and go with human history..