The Navy on Wednesday released its first naval ship maintenance and modernization plan, underscoring the need for more dry docks because of the disparity between a backlog of repair work and repair shipyards’ capabilities.

The “Report to Congress on the Long-Range Plan for Maintenance and Modernization of Naval Vessels for Fiscal Year 2020” noted while there are 21 certified private dry docks and 18 public yard dry docks, “sustaining the 355-ship fleet will require changes to both public and private industrial capability and capacity.”

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) floats free from dry dock at Newport News Shipbuilding on Nov. 3, 2014. (Photo by Ricky Thompson/HII)

This includes investing in additional dry docks to keep up with a growing Navy, updating and refurbishing current shipyards to support modern ships, and allocating consistent funding to avoid “feast and famine cycles that erode both the repair industrial base and the underlying vendor support base.”

The report said having only seven private shipyard dry docks on the Pacific coast “presents a significant challenge that reduces margin for schedule changes and growth.”

These dry docks are greatly outmatched by homeported surface ships. San Diego has four private dry docks but 45 ships based there, Pearl Harbor has one dry dock and 10 ships, Seattle has one dry dock and five ships, and Portland has one dry dock and no homeported ships.

The Atlantic ports have a lower ratio of dry docks to homeported ships: Norfolk, Va., has six dry docks and 34 ships and Mayport, Fla., has two dry docks and 15 ships. The remaining ports have no homeported ships but six dry docks. Charleston, S.C., has three dry docks, Pascagoula, Miss., has one, and Great Lakes and Bath, Maine, combined, have two dry docks.

The 2018 schedule of depot-level maintenance availability inductions. From the Report to Congress on the Long-Range Plan for Maintenance and Modernization of Naval Vessels for Fiscal Year 2020.

To increase capability, the plan says the Navy conducted a market survey of potential dry docks and is developing a long-range plan “to increase the number of certified dry docks in the Pacific (and elsewhere if required) to reduce this shortfall.”

In the meantime, the Navy is continually optimizing regional port loading by adjusting ship schedules to develop “executable availabilities and best use available capacity.”

Currently, the Navy’s Regional Maintenance Centers (RMCs) develop plans to address ship and submarine maintenance programming, budgeting, and execution. Those plans forecast private sector yard workload and projected capacity of the industrial base.

RMCs oversee, manage, and contract with the private yards for maintenance work packages within their regions.

The report explained the Navy continuously reviews ship maintenance and modernization requirements as well as private sector port loading to provide a stable and predictable workload for industry.

Chart from the Report to Congress on the Long-Range Plan for Maintenance and Modernization of Naval Vessels for Fiscal Year 2020

The four public sector shipyards also have problems, noting in 2018 “most naval shipyard capital equipment was assessed as beyond effective service life, obsolete, unsupported by original equipment manufacturers, and at operational risk.”

This old equipment increases the depot maintenance costs for the nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers they work on, increases schedules and reduces capacity.

“Modernizing naval shipyard capital equipment is therefore essential to meeting future capacity and capability requirements, and maximizing fleet readiness,” the plan said.

The report specifically cited dry dock investments needed to support the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers and Virginia-class attack submarines as well as seismic and flood-protection improvements.

To help improve this situation the Navy has a 20-year, $21 billion Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Plan (SIOP) looking to restore 67 of 68 public naval shipyards at risk for movement, deferral, or rescheduling based on dry dock capability gaps.

Navy acquisition chief James Geurts told senators last year about this plan to recover maintenance on the shipyards, which they need to sustain the growing Navy (Defense Daily, April 18, 2018).

The maintenance report explained the SIOP includes engineering analysis and strategy for optimal placement of facilities and major equipment at the public shipyards.

Chart from the Report to Congress on the Long-Range Plan for Maintenance and Modernization of Naval Vessels for Fiscal Year 2020

The report said the strategy “will restore badly outdated facilities while simultaneously reducing total personnel and material travel and movement by an average of 65 percent, which equates to recovering 328K man-days per year.”

Relatedly, on the private shipyard side, the Navy is working on a Private Shipyard Optimization (PSO) to strategize with private industry to optimally place facilities and major equipment. The Navy expects PSO results released in time to support the FY ’21 budget request.

The Navy is also implementing a Private Sector Improvement (PSI) program “that addresses workload stability, governance, contracting and process optimization. The goal of the PSO and PSI initiatives is to identify and eliminate barriers to private sector ship availability throughput to affordably achieve on time delivery of surface ships.”

Both the public and private plans focus on three main areas of improvement: dry dock capacity and survivability, facility layout and infrastructure optimization, and capital equipment requirements and modernization.

“The PSO/PSI initiatives will address appropriate risk sharing, timely repair availability completion, and streamlined business processes at private shipyards and the supporting vendor base,” the report added.

The report said combining these efforts with more consistent funding will help support the future fleet. “Consistent funding matched to steady demand for work will enable the repair base, public and private, to grow to meet the needs of the 355-ship Navy.