The Navy is starting a 30-year ship repair and modernization plan as a sort of companion to the 30-year shipbuilding plan, the Navy’s top acquisition official said Tuesday.

James Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition (ASN RDA), told reporters during a conference that the 30-year shipbuilding plan is “only as good as our ability to continue to repair and modernize those ships once we build them.”

BAE's ship repair yard in Norfolk, Va. Photo: BAE Systems
BAE’s ship repair yard in Norfolk, Va. Photo: BAE Systems

Therefore, Geurts is looking for a new “companion plan that then takes the 30-year shipbuilding plan, both what we have in inventory and what we build on that 30-year plan, and then forecast and plan for all the repairs and modernizations we’ll have to do.”

The new plan is meant to help make all parties understand the Navy’s maintenance demand signal. Geurts said it will inform the industrial base and “we can take a look at do we have the capacities in the public shipyards? Do we have the capabilities in the repair yards? Do we have all the resources aligned properly, to allow us to be reliable and affordable on that end of the business, just like we’re pushing for in new construction?”

Geurts said his hope is by seeking the same level of rigor in maintenance and repair scheduling as in shipbuilding then industry can better plan resources. “They can start hiring resources when they see the signal,” he said. “Right now we’re not kind of as well-positioned in the future as I’d like to be.”

The plan is starting in the current budget year and will start looking forward, but as the Navy builds the fleet up, the plan will examine if the service is properly balanced with the right capacity to repair and maintain a growing fleet.

Geurts first verbally ordered Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to start the plan a week and a half ago, and it will be constructed through this summer and fall. He expects it to be ready to be delivered in the spring when the 30-year shipbuilding plan is typically released.

James Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (ASN (RD&A)). (Photo: U.S. Navy)
James Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (ASN (RD&A)). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The last shipbuilding plan was released in February, along with the Navy’s FY ’18 budget request (Defense Daily, Feb. 14).

He acknowledged this is a complicated effort with many variables because the Navy extends deployments and swaps ships as needed for the warfighter. Starting with the plan will help manage schedules.

“The only thing I know is the best way to start getting after a complex issue is laying out at least what you know, and laying that out as a baseline, so then when you do have to do – whether it’s for operational reasons or whatever – have to do changes, you’re changing from a known baseline and you can work quickly to understand what the second and third-order effects are.”

Geurts first unveiled the plan at a June 8 forum in Hampton Roads, Va. There, he explained maintenance is just as important as building ships so the Navy needs to have a strategic look at both. That means the service also has to be as innovative on sustaining and maintaining as on buildings ships and synchronizing shipbuilding with maintenance.

He added this effort will help answer how the Navy modernizes what it has and make those ships as available as possible. Then, as more ships are added, the availability number will increase.