US Navy Looks to Private Sector to Boost Sub, Aircraft Carrier Building Capacity

Construction of the USS Ford at the Newport News naval yard in 2012. The US Navy is seeking more help from smaller defense contractors to maintain carriers and submarines in an effort to free up time for larger ship makers to build new vessels.

The Navy’s present process for handling service repairs, Vice Admiral Tom Moore told USNI News in late December, is “not a great way of doing it.” Moore said he “hold[s] onto that work as long as I can” and he puts off hiring a contractor until “late in the game,” once public shipyards max out their overtime hours or cannot finish the work on time. US marine sharpshooters with 3/6 Marines Recon Unit fire at insurgents and foreign fighters from a rooftopof a house the town of al-Qaim at the Iraqi-Syrian border (File) Moving forward, “I would really like to see us go the other way,” Moore said. Specifically, the admiral envisions scheduling work for smaller service and maintenance companies in advance instead of waiting until the last minute.

The change is spurred by public ship makers like General Dynamics Electric Boat, Huntington Ingalls Industries and Newport News Shipbuilding running low on capacity in their shipyards.

By hiring small firms in advance, the Navy can boost overall capacity to build, fix, test and maintain ships. “If it turns out at the end of the year, ‘gee, I had more capacity than I needed at the naval shipyards,’ then we’ll address it. I haven’t seen it happen in the last 10 or 15 years,” Moore noted. A US soldier stands guard at the USS Vicksburg cruiser ship docked at Constanta harbour in Constanta, Romania, on March 13, 2015. Last June, US Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) announced last year that a bipartisan group of lawmakers would welcome a new policy to expand the US Navy fleet up to 355 ships. The battle fleet currently has 277 vessels.

“The Navy has set a clear requirement for 355 ships — an objective that is achievable in the coming years with prudent planning and sufficient resources,” the lawmakers said at the time, noting that a 335-ship fleet would “allow us to deter our adversaries, support our allies and respond to threats and humanitarian challenges around the globe.”

On December 30, a bipartisan group of 130 US House of Representatives lawmakers signed a letter to US Secretary of Defense James Mattis expressing their interest in doubling the number of aircraft carriers procured in 2019. In this image released by the U.S. Navy, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, flanked by South Korean destroyers, from left, Yang Manchun and Sejong the Great, and the U.S.Navy’s Wayne E. Meyer and USS Michael Murphy, transit the western Pacific Ocean Wednesday, May 3, 2017. “Given the workload we have now, I don’t see [having excess capacity] happening anytime in the near future,” Moore said. Thus, the new strategy not only “helps the private yards” by providing a more credible expectation of what their workloads will […]