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Naval Shipyard Plan Due to Congress This Month

USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) prepares to pull into Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va. in 2017. US Navy Photo

The Navy this month will explain to Congress what it needs to keep its ship repair yards able and optimized to maintain modern warships.

A congressionally mandated naval shipyard optimization plan is due to the Hill this month, Navy maintenance leadership has told USNI News, with a companion plan regarding private shipyard investments also in the works by the service.

Commander of Naval Sea Systems Command Vice Adm. Tom Moore told USNI News in a December interview that the plan for the four public naval shipyards would include a “fairly significant investment over the course of about 20 years, $10 billion-plus” that includes upgrades to the drydocks, a redesign of the yards’ layouts to optimize the flow of people and material, and new equipment to maintain and modernize 21st Century warships. Among the Navy’s challenges is that the oldest yard, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard , was built in 1800 and originally designed for ship construction; though the Navy has made piecemeal improvements over the decades, there hasn’t been a strategic, concerted effort to overhaul these public shipyards to meet the Navy’s current needs.

Some of these upgrades are needed as newer ships come into the fleet – the Virginia-class attack submarine with the Virginia Payload Module will not fit in all the naval shipyards’ drydocks, for example – but Moore also noted that if the Navy hopes to sustain a 355-ship fleet it needs to begin making investments to improve the yards’ output now.

Though not required by Congress, Moore said a hard look at the private repair yards was also necessary to support a 355-ship fleet, which can only be achieved in the near-term through service life extension programs (SLEPs) for many surface ships – work that would likely be done exclusively at private yards. Additionally, as more even-variant Littoral Combat Ships come into the fleet and begin operations out of San Diego, drydocks on the West Coast will be even more in-demand, as those Independence-variant LCSs require a drydock for nearly all their maintenance availabilities.

“If you’re going to talk about a meaningful SLEP program then I think we also have to turn our attention to the private sector and say, what does the private sector equivalent look like to this naval shipyard optimization plan? What does the private sector need in terms of drydocks and capacity and productivity improvements to manage the work we would demand out of them if we were going to go keep these ships longer?” Moore said.
“So there’s a private sector equivalent which we haven’t done as much work on,” he noted in December, saying that NAVSEA would be holding meetings with industry in the coming months to inform this private yard plan.

Director of Fleet Maintenance at U.S. Fleet Forces Command Rear Adm. Mark Whitney and Commander of Navy Regional Maintenance Center Rear Adm. Jim Downey both spoke recently of the need to view both efforts – on the private and public yard sides – as an integrated look at what the Navy’s maintenance needs are going forward and how to invest smartly to support those needs.

“Over the course of decades and decades, we accumulated risk in our infrastructure,” Whitney said at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium in January.
“We’re now at the point where we’ve gotten a little bit more sophisticated, we’ve culled the data, and I think [NAVSEA’s maintenance and industry operations division] has put together a very credible argument on the need to make decisions now and over the foreseeable future, that if we do not make decisions we start to lose the capability to do a type of ship in a drydock in this year, and it just starts to accumulate. So now is the time to articulate that and present that in terms of risk to senior decision-makers.”

“Following closely behind that … there’s a private sector piece that has to be a companion and integrated together,” Whitney continued.
“So there’s going to be two companion products, and it’s a holistic approach from the operator to communicate with senior leadership what the risks are,” Whitney continued.

Downey, who also serves as the deputy commander of NAVSEA for surface warfare, said at the SNA symposium that routine maintenance as well as upcoming SLEP efforts would put a “relatively significant demand signal on docks” in major fleet concentration areas like Norfolk and San Diego and also in places like the Pacific Northwest and in Mayport, Fla.

Downey said the private shipyard optimization plan would be crafted in the coming months “taking into account what we’re doing on the public yard side,” but that a clear takeaway already is that “you can quickly go to, we need more docks.”

“Part of that, though, also becomes, what has happened to the docking duration? What’s happened to Navy oversight activity and industry’s activity during the dock duration, and how do we solicit docking-related avails in a more efficient way to allow industry to propose if they could double-dock ships,” he said.
“The private part is different than the public; it doesn’t mean the Navy’s necessarily going to request funds to go buy docks out in the private sector. We might be improving some docks – like out at 32nd Street ( in San Diego) to modify that graving dock to handle a DDG with the sonar dome issues – but we obviously want to get to the incentive and cost-sharing approach [that] industry is interested in across the nation. To do that, we realize the most important thing is probably predictable, forecastable work.”

  • Horn

    I’d be surprised if they get even 1/4 of what they need to modernize our shipyards.

    • NavySubNuke

      Shipyard upgrades aren’t sexy but they are necessary. Hopefully the Navy can successfully make that case and maybe we can get some actual new dry docks and equipment and get the yards adequately staffed.
      I wonder how many days of maintenance work are lost each year simply because it is getting harder and harder to maintain the 30+ year old cranes most of the shipyards are stuck with. That would be an interesting metric. Or what the annual maintenance costs of a 100+ year old dry dock are and how many days per year you can use it vs. a new dry dock.

      • Rocco

        Philly’s yard needs to be opened up again that way work could be done in Portsmouth. Yes I know Philly is probably in the same shape physically but it’s there & better than nothing.

        • tiger

          I have been saying re open Philly & Mare Is. for the longest.

          • Secundius

            Mare Island started using “Asbestos” insulation in 1901, and the Shipyard is SO Contaminated by Asbestos. That’s it’s even in the Ground Water. It’s Cheaper to Let Mare Island to “Wither on the Vine”, than it is to Clean it up. And the US Congress WON’T Fund it’s Clean-Up. And Most if not ALL of “Philly Shipyard” is NOW in Commercial and Private Shipyards…

          • Rocco

            Philly is still in Naval operation!

          • Secundius

            As far as I know the only Active US. Naval presence is, the Naval Support Facility, the Naval Surface Warfare Center and the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility. And maybe a Few Naval Offices, but the Rest is Privatized or Commercial Shipyards…

          • Rocco

            Yes I ran into someone that works there!

          • Secundius

            Which one…

          • Rocco

            Philly

          • Secundius

            OKAAAYYY! Have to go on one of my annual Pilgrimages to Philly sometime soon! i.e. Sweet Lucy’s, Dalessandro’s, Jimmy G’s, Fette Sau’s and Sonny’s…

          • Rocco

            Get a South Philly Stromboli while your there

          • tiger

            Well…. The mothball yard & NAVSEA are. But the rest is non
            Navy.

          • Rocco

            Yes I ran into someone that works for the Navy there.

          • Rocco

            Mare island not suitable!! As much as I’d like it to be.

  • johnbull

    I really don’t think that many people in the public or enough in congress understand the situation we’re in. We don’t have yard space for the undersized fleet we have now, much less for a 355 ship fleet.

    • Pday

      But DOD will still request a BRAC.

    • Stephen

      We took one of the most productive yards off the table. Mare Island Naval Shipyard was poised to move into the 21st Century with a plan, realistic milestones & upgrades to its granite-walled drydocks. Lost to a political vendetta… DOD departure from the Bay Area left a deep wound on California.

      • Secundius

        Forget it, “Mare Island” is being left to “Wither on the Vine”! Over Ninety-Five Years of Asbestos Contamination is going to keep Mare Island Naval Shipyard closed. It would Cost More to clean-up the Toxic Asbestos Contamination, then to actually Replace It…

        • Stephen

          I know it withers. Once closed, they don’t reopen. The Mare Island yard was commissioned in the 19th Century; a lot of the old buildings were constructed with asbestos. The Foundry & metal-working areas contain metals & chemicals of great concern. All of the current Naval shipyards have the same problem. That being said, the shear production capacity of the Mare Island yard is sorely missed. The drydocks & cranes were updated & modern; they had cutting edge welding engineering & metallurgy.

        • tiger

          Bring back Philly. They are not making any money doing commercial work.

          • Secundius

            Actually they are! Philly is backlogged to Produce Container Ships though to 2025…

          • tiger

            Really? The office park side seems a lot more busier.

          • Secundius

            Philly Shipyards (i.e. Akers Shipyards) and Matson Shipyards…

          • tiger

            I still think buying out Aker is a doable deal. The Navy needs the repair capacity. The docks & gear are in place. The only thing lacking is Nuc capabilities.

          • Secundius

            Doable only “IF” Philly is willing to Sell…

          • tiger

            Well How do we build this 356 ship Navy? Everything else is booked up….

          • Secundius

            Depends “IF” 355-Ship Navy is More “Bravado”, than actually Factual. So far it’s Leaning More to Bravado, than Factual…

          • Rocco

            How do you know that?

          • tiger

            I live in Philly. Been there a few times. The non ship yard half is prime business location & the far end is being pitched to Amazon. Aker is kind of low key action wise. Just glad they are not crying for bail outs like the last owner.

          • Secundius

            Two types of Coastal Container Ship’s being built there. Both share the Same Sail Plan, but on is Slightly Larger that the Other. “Aloha” classes, one in 3,600-TEU’s and the other in 3,700-TEU’s…

          • tiger

            As I recall Last drive by, it looks like one is near done.

          • Secundius

            Completion date is expected in either September or October 2018…

          • Rocco

            I figured that! I was stationed there in the middle 80’s o 2 carriers!

          • Secundius

            Turkish Navy is constructing Four “Freedom” LCS’s to be armed with Leonardo (i.e. Oto Melara) 3-inch (76.2×636.5mm/62-caliber) guns. Just thought you might like to know? Known as the “Ada” class Corvette/Frigate…

          • Rocco

            Interesting!! Perfect type to operate in the Black Sea

          • Secundius

            At least one Frigate version to include a 16-cell Mk.41 VLS armed with ESSM’s…

    • Rocco

      Agreed!!

  • Ed L

    What does congress know about the military? What needs to be done is a separate 2 year budget for defense and then they can mess around with screwing up the rest of the country

  • baruch_gershom

    A discussion long overdue. That only Litton has the ability to repair battle damaged DDGs should be of great concern. Also, we need to look at Navy yards also doing new construction as they did before the 1970s. It is a great check against overcharges by the private yards, and having the experience building ships of a certain class will also help in war time when battle-damaged ships need repair.

    • Sir Bateman

      I’ve always wondered, why did the Navy stop building ships in their public yards? Especially nowadays with talk of accelerating SSN construction but concern about capacity not being there to do so. Couldn’t Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, which built nuke subs up until the late ’60s, at least theoretically chip in to help take some of the load off of Newport News and Electric Boat?

      During WWII the public yards, most now long closed, produced awesome numbers of ships. It seems like an incredibly foolish and shortsighted decision to make to let an asset like that wither and die.

      • tiger

        Cutbacks, draw downs & base closings.