JUST IN: Parts, Labor Shortages Continue to Plague Navy (Updated)
ARLINGTON, Virginia — Shortages of parts and skilled laborers are continuing to put the Navy behind in both building new ships and maintaining existing ones, a senior service officer said Jan. 30.
A “walk across the country” through various U.S. Navy shipbuilding projects highlighted a challenge in both new construction and sustainment across ongoing projects, Vice Adm. William Galinis, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command, said at the American Society of Naval Engineers’ Intelligent Ships Symposium.
“We are just not meeting the market,” Galinis said in a keynote speech at the event. He listed scheduling and cost performance among the Navy’s hindrances, but also a dwindling workforce and “unacceptable” lead time on parts.
While public and private partnerships have produced positive outcomes, there are also communication challenges between the service and its contractors, he said. Better collaboration between industry and government will be key to addressing the Navy’s lagging timelines, he added.
Among the programs that are behind schedule is the Virginia-class submarine, also known as the SSN-774 – a class of nuclear-powered attack boats. The goal is two a year, with the current delivery hovering between 1.3 and 1.5, he said.
Galinis used the Virginia-class as an example of sustainment issues the Navy is witnessing. He called the lead time for parts and materials procurement “unacceptable.”
“Virginia, again, a very capable class of submarines, but on the new construction side, probably not where we need to be in terms of getting those delivered,” he said.
The Constellation-class frigate program — a class of multi-mission guided-missile frigates under development — is also facing the looming challenge of on-time delivery, Galinis said.
“The challenge to the team is that ship has got to deliver on time, and it’s got to be complete,” he said. “In terms of getting the complete ship delivered to the fleet, to be honest with you, we’ve kind of struggled with that.”
The USS George Washington, the next Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, is another project suffering from delays. Galinis said they plan to deliver by spring or early summer, which according to budget documents, is about 19 months behind schedule.
Efforts to improve the process between the public and private sectors have included the establishment of programs such as “strike teams,” which Galinis described as “real successes” in collaborative problem solving. He cited an example of a gear issue that plagued several different ships.
Galinis said the Navy, the shipyard and the original equipment manufacturer came together and were able to solve a “very complex problem in a relatively short period of time.”
The lead times for parts are “unacceptable,” which contributes to the challenges of modernization, he said.
Galinis said the “big work” going on in combat systems world is marrying software to the hardware that it supports.
Merging old technology with the new is a growing challenge in sustainment, as well. Galinis referenced changing missions from what some original systems were intended to do. Electronic warfare and evolving weapons systems demand new technology and upgrades, he added.
On-time delivery for ships and submarines undergoing routine maintenance or refurbishment in 2022 was 40 percent, he said. “That’s just not where we need to be.”
Work force issues are the Navy’s “No. 1 strategic challenge,” he said.
From government to industry, the competition for talent has made recruitment and retention hard, he said. And workers are still missing days due COVID-19, he added.
Repair and maintenance skills across shipyards are lacking, he said, referencing some efforts underway to address the workforce shortage, including a partnership between the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance and Electric Boat to train over 1,400 shipyard workers to enter the submarine construction world.
A new training facility in Danville, Virginia, hopes to eventually train between 800 to 1,000 recruits a year, he said.
Addressing the challenges impeding the Navy’s timelines – from construction to workforce – will require a combined effort across government and industry, he said.
At the close of 2022, the Navy was down 1,200 workers across the Navy’s four shipyards, he said.
The government is investing nearly $2.5 billion into industrial base development, “and that’s everything from workforce, even capitalization,” Galinis said.
In addition to training, Galinis cited a need for a pay scale overhaul to remain competitive. Compensation packages need to be presented with opportunity, he said, to build a career – build a skill – and advance throughout that career.
Correction: A Previous version of this story misidentified the USS George Washington class.
Topics: Navy News