The Importance of Defending our Military
There are many reasons the all-volunteer United States military is the best-trained, most lethal force the world has ever known.
As we continue to fight in Afghanistan, confront ISIS, face escalating tensions with a belligerent North Korea, and address concerns in Iran and other places across the world, it is imperative we do all we can on the home front to keep our warfighters equipped and ready to fight. Regrettably, we’re not.
The four public shipyards – Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard – perform prodigious work to maintain the fleet that helps keep our country safe. But all four of them are in “poor condition” and are not meeting the Navy’s operational needs. GAO Report GAO-17-548, released in September 2017, details many of the infrastructure issues, including nearly obsolete dry docks. They need immediate restoration and modernization to keep up with the advanced fleet and next generation of ships. Currently, none of the shipyards can house the new Gerald R. Ford Class aircraft carriers, and many cannot accommodate the upgraded Virginia class submarines. And it’s certainly not just the shipyards that face challenges.
Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) East in Cherry Point, North Carolina, is an aircraft repair and maintenance facility that is slated to house the largest concentration of F-35 aircraft on the east coast. The installation is more than 75 years old and still uses much of the original equipment. A burst water main under a hangar caused a bulge preventing aircraft from being maintained there. That water main burst more than ten years ago. According to that GAO report, the shipyards have more than 1.2 million square feet of condemned, uninhabitable, or otherwise unusable facility space.
Managers have done an admirable job of “doing more with less,” even under these circumstances. At FRC East, managers are credited with finding ways to reduce the price tag of an F-35 facility from $43.7 million to $11.5 million by using existing resources. But with aging facilities at installations across the country, our capacity and capability of fleet readiness is lagging. That’s not simply a dollars and cents problem: From 2000 to 2016, overruns on maintenance at the shipyards resulted in 1,300 lost operational days for aircraft carriers and 12,500 for submarines.
While the costs of upgrading, restoring and modernizing facilities and infrastructure run in the billions – the Navy currently estimates nearly $5 billion for the shipyards – the costs of not making these investments will undoubtedly be much greater, including more labor and materials costs for re-work. It’s sexy and splashy when headlines announce the next generation of sophisticated aircraft and advanced ships, but we need to make the necessary investments to keep them viable.
The GAO recommended – and the Navy concurred – that the shipyards need regular management reviews, comprehensive, analytically-based goals and metrics for capital investment, and regular reporting to Congress on progress. As the frontline managers who work in these aging facilities and strive every day to complete the mission, FMA could not agree more with the GAO’s recommendations, and we argue these recommendations could apply to facilities and infrastructure across the government. We applaud the House Armed Services Committee for directing a comprehensive report on shipyard shortfalls and look forward to working with authorizers and appropriators to enable the country to enhance our military readiness.
FMA’s Valerie Scott, a manager at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, emphasized commitment to the mission in remarks in The Washington Post earlier this year. She said “workers want to do a good job. They want to be successful at the job. They want to fix ships – they want the country defended.” Let’s give them the tools and facilities to do that.
Written by the Federal Managers Association (FMA). To learn more, visit their website: FedManagers.org
Posted in Hear it from FMA