The Navy’s top officer Thursday castigated two companies that build Navy submarines for underperforming on contracted maintenance work on attack submarines.
“Based on the fact that we continue to build a viable submarine force, and we know that we don’t have the capacity in our public shipyards to handle all of that maintenance, we need Electric Boat, and we need Huntington Ingalls to be able to do that work. They are underperforming. They are over cost and way over schedule,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said.
Gilday spoke while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday about the Navy’s FY ‘23 budget request.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) asked for his perspective on how the Navy is specifically thinking about continuing the delayed overhaul maintenance work on the USS Boise (SSN-764) Los Angeles-class attack submarine. SSN-764’s work has been severely delayed past the original work schedule in 2015-2016. It was originally scheduled to enter the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for extended maintenance in 2013, but delayed due to heavy workload schedules. The Navy later gave the job to private shipyards, but it has still not been finished.
“The challenge with Boise really rests inside the private shipyard that is doing that work. So we have two private yards that do that work, and we need their capacity. But because we need them, we need to hold their feet to the fire to those contracts. They need to pay penalties when they don’t meet their requirements. But we need them to be all in with us and the nation that they’re supporting in this critical effort. But we need to continue, sir, to press them to do a better job. We need that capability, it’s a national imperative,” Gilday continued.
General Dynamics’ Electric Boat [GD] and HII’s [HII] Newport News Shipbuilding division jointly build the Navy’s nuclear-powered attack submarines and have been contracted by the Navy to help perform maintenance on them because there is not enough capacity in the four public shipyards that typically perform maintenance work on nuclear-powered ships.
Committee Chairman Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) also asked the testifying officials what the government can do to get the industrial base back on track after dealing with various COVID-19 pandemic and other issues.
“I’m also deeply concerned about the pace with which both our public shipyards and our private shipyards keep up with the maintenance that’s required by both our submarine fleet as well as our surface fleet as well,” Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said at the hearing.
He noted he has visited most of the public and private shipyards and their leaders to better understand their challenges in performing work on time, but Del Toro also put some blame on the private shipyards for their performance.
“It does take a team to work this through, obviously, but the other message that I’ve also relayed to the leadership of these shipyards is that they also have a responsibility to deliver these platforms on time and on schedule. And they need to divert the proper resources necessary to do so in terms of capital equipment and also in terms of hiring the necessary workforce at those shipyards in order to increase the pace at which these maintenance cycles are taken.”
Del Toro said that “without question” the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past several years has been “significant” in their issues.
“We continue to cooperate very collaboratively, thanks to the support of the Congress as well, and making investments in those shipyards, both capital investments and also investments with regards to the talent management that’s necessary to run those shipyards. I believe that there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done,” Del Toro added.
In 2020, the Navy awarded HII a $352 million contract modification for another round of early production work on the Boise overhaul. In 2016 it lost its certification for normal operations. That award work was expected to be finished by May 2023 (Defense Daily, Sept. 21, 2020).
Boise first arrived at HII’s Newport News facility in June 2018. At the time, the company was expected to finish the maintenance and modernization work by 2021 (Defense Daily, June 22, 2018).