BREAKING: Navy’s Del Toro Calls For Massive Push to Revitalize U.S. Shipbuilding

By Stew Magnuson

Navy photo

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro on Dec. 14 called on the nation to help the Navy return America to being a global leader in shipbuilding.

“History demonstrates a clear pattern: no great naval power has ever existed without also being a dominant commercial maritime power, encompassing both shipbuilding and global shipping,” Del Toro said in a keynote speech at the Naval Nuclear Submarine and Aircraft Carrier Suppliers Conference organized by the National Defense Industrial Association’s Delaware Valley Chapter and held at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

“It is imperative that we take decisive action to reclaim America's position as a leading maritime power,” he said.

If the United States is to take the preeminent position as the world’s leading supplier of ships and maintenance services, it will have to knock China off the top of the heap.

Del Toro referenced a series of statistics: China dominates the global commercial shipbuilding industry today with over 40 percent of the market controlled by its shipyards. In just 20 years, the People’s Liberation Army Navy has tripled in size and is projected to have a fleet of over 400 warships by 2030.

China also has the world's largest fishing fleet and third largest merchant marine fleet, exceeding 7,000 ships, compared to the United States' 178 , which ranks 70th. China controls a significant portion of the global commercial maritime supply chain, he said.

“The renowned naval strategist, Alfred Thayer Mahan, argued that naval power leads to commercial maritime power, which in turn fuels further naval growth. China's leadership has clearly studied and embraced this theory,” Del Toro said.

“This creates substantial operational and economic risks for the American economy in the event of a crisis or conflict,” he said.

“We know that far too few outside our maritime circles recognize or acknowledge these risks — risks we can no longer afford to take in the face of intense competition with a full-spectrum global maritime power,” he said.

Del Toro envisioned a multi-pronged approach to putting the United States on top in shipbuilding, including investing in the revitalization of the U.S. shipbuilding industry and merchant marine fleet; developing innovative technologies to maintain its naval edge; strengthening partnerships with key allies to counter China's growing influence; and promoting fair competition.

Del Toro in November convened the first meeting of the Government Shipbuilders Council, which will be a key part of the effort. The Defense, Transportation, Homeland Security and Commerce Departments — along with five shipbuilding organizations — all participated, coming together to “identify what actions we need to take to build the strength and readiness of our respective fleets,” he said.

“We all shared concern that our position as the world’s leading shipbuilder has dissipated over the past four decades, and we, as a nation, have exposed ourselves to vulnerabilities in shipbuilding, sealift and economic trade,” he said.

Restoring the nation’s shipbuilding sector will take more than the federal government, he noted, including academia, private and public investments in manufacturing and shipbuilding facilities and partnership with centers of maritime industry at the state and local level.

Key will be building the shipbuilding workforce and investing in maritime technologies, he said.

“The Americans who build and maintain all of our ships are a national asset, and we must be relentless in our efforts to improve their number, capabilities and skill,” he said. These include high-paying, high-skilled “new-collar” jobs and traditionally blue-collar trades employing cutting-edge technologies, he added.

“We must establish programs that build capacity in fields like naval architecture, engineering and lifecycle management, as well as technical expertise in nuclear welding, robotics, software management and additive manufacturing,” he said.

“While the vision is ambitious, it is achievable. We are a nation accustomed to taking on ambitious endeavors, and restoring our maritime strength is no exception,” he said.

“Collectively, we have what it takes to restore our nation’s competitive shipbuilding and repair landscape,” he said.

Topics: Maritime Security, Navy News

Comments (3)

Re: Navy’s Del Toro Calls For Massive Push to Revitalize U.S. Shipbuilding

The call for innovation is spot on, but one of the inherent problems with adopting (and adapting) new technologies is that the basic blocking & tackling of the very necessary dependencies (data governance, process analysis, interoperability, etc., etc.) gets ignored or subsumed for political reasons. Leaders calling for change are often times "unschooled" in the level of complexity that currently exists within their own companies. If they really want to accelerate things they can but only by going slower.

Charles Ditchendorf at 11:13 AM
Re: Navy’s Del Toro Calls For Massive Push to Revitalize U.S. Shipbuilding

I heartily agree with the need to restore and upgrade U.S. shipbuilding with as much innovation as practical.

Everett Puterbaugh at 12:35 PM
Re: Navy’s Del Toro Calls For Massive Push to Revitalize U.S. Shipbuilding

The impediments to building ships in the US was well documented by the Congressional Commission on Merchant Marine and Defense in varying reports published around 1986-1989. Lot to work on if SECNAV if willing to take it on.

Mark Schaeffer at 12:18 PM
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