JUST IN: Lack of Shipyard Capacity Putting ‘Unsustainable Strain’ on Navy

By Josh Luckenbaugh

Navy photo

ARLINGTON, Virginia — Greater shipyard capacity is needed for the Navy to ensure readiness for potential conflict in the Indo-Pacific, service officials said Jan. 11.

The Navy currently has four public shipyards that maintain the service’s vessels. However, these shipyards suffer from poor infrastructure conditions, according to a Government Accountability Office report from May 2022 titled, “Ongoing Challenges Could Jeopardize Navy’s Ability to Improve Shipyards.”

These infrastructure deficiencies directly affect “the readiness of the aircraft carrier and submarine fleets [the shipyards] are charged with maintaining,” the report said. “These conditions also affect the Navy’s ability to support the national defense.”

And the Navy is feeling the effects, said Adm. Daryl Caudle, the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

“Thirty-six-month availabilities are now taking on average 45 months,” Caudle said during a keynote address at the Surface Navy Association’s annual conference. “This is placing a large and unsustainable strain on our [Optimized Fleet Response Plan], our operational availability, and our forward presence options.”

The Navy initiated the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program in 2018 to modernize its four public shipyards “for the first time in practically 100 years,” Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said during a keynote address at the conference.

Along with refurbishing its already existing shipyards, the Navy is looking to build further shipyard capacity in the Pacific, Del Toro said.

“We need to be able to repair … ships as close to the conflict as possible, so that these vital national assets can get back into the fight very quickly,” he said. “It's no secret that any high-end conflict is likely to be in the Asia-Pacific region, and that's why we're looking to create significant shipyard capability in the Pacific.”

The Navy is also getting help from private companies who have shipyard capacity, Caudle said.

“Those partnerships are essential … to help me chip away at this backlog,” he said. But private companies need the right incentives so that the risk model supports investment “in the workforce, the space, the capitalization, tooling, and all the training necessary to do ship maintenance, or they're just not going to be able to do it.”

“Everything has to be on the table” when it comes to ensuring shipyard capacity, Caudle added, and that includes opening more public shipyards.

When asked if there’s an argument to be made for opening a fifth public shipyard, Caudle replied: “Of course, I mean … I need six.”

“I need enough capacity in our shipyards to drive down the backlog to zero,” he said. “We just continue to stack ships up [and] not get them back into the fight. So … yes, we need to be thinking about what we do to increase that capability.”


Topics: Navy News

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