Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and Representative Rob Wittman (R-Virginia-01) announced the SHIPYARD Act to provide $21 billion to invest in the Navy’s four public shipyards, including Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The legislation, announced Wednesday, would also provide $2 billion for new construction of private shipyards, and $2 billion to repair the Navy’s existing private shipyards.
“Virginia’s public and private shipyards are crucial to strengthening our national security,” Kaine said in the announcement. “This legislation would ensure that our sailors, shipbuilders, and ship repairers have the most up-to-date tools, equipment, and facilities to ensure our Navy remains ready to protect our nation.”
Also introducing the legislation are Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin-08), and Senators Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Angus King (I-Maine) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire.) A whitepaper published alongside the announcement describes problems like aging infrastructure, limited dry docks for the newest classes of submarines, and long maintenance delays. Additionally, it says that current infrastructure can’t compete with China.
“China has already surpassed the U.S. Navy as the world’s largest by sheer numbers of warships. In December 2020, the Navy released an updated 30–year Shipbuilding Plan with an updated requirement for 546 naval vessels, including 403 manned vessels and 143 unmanned vessels. Unfortunately, today’s private new construction shipyards simply do not have the capacity to produce the numbers of warships this plan requires,” the whitepaper states, citing William Hawkins’ “The Naval Industrial Base is in Worse Shape Than You Think,” published in Naval Institute Proceedings.
“The United States Navy depends on four American public shipyards, including Norfolk Naval Shipyard right here in Virginia, to maintain and modernize our nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers,” Wittman said in the release. “But our shipyards’ aging infrastructure fails to provide the capacity, configurations, or equipment necessary to maintain fleet readiness. These factors have not only resulted in a maintenance backlog amongst our current ships but has left us ill-prepared to grow our Navy to keep pace with China.”
He said, “After all, we can build all the ships we want, but if they are tied at the dock due to maintenance backlogs they don’t do us much good. The SHIPYARD Act solves these problems by injecting desperately needed funding into the Navy’s Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program (SIOP) and making critical infrastructure investments to modernize American shipyards. Moreover, this bill marks one of our most substantial SIOP investments to date, highlighting the program’s ever-growing importance.”
In a Wednesday op-ed, Forbes Senior Contributor Craig Hooper wrote that the SHIPYARD Act has a major hole: the Coast Guard.
“While the high-performing Coast Guard Yard is just as dilapidated as any of the Navy yards, it is being entirely shut out of the [SHIPYARD Act.] The snub, coming, just as the Coast Guard is standing alongside the U.S. Navy in resisting Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf—and while the Coast Guard comprehensively upgrades their six forward-deployed cutters in Bahrain and sends a cutter into the Black Sea—the Congressional failure to include the Coast Guard Yard in the proposed shipyard recapitalization bill is perplexing,” Hooper wrote.
He noted that two years ago the Coast Guard proposed an improvement plan that would cost $130 billion — less than one percent of $21 billion proposed for the Navy’s four shipyards. Hooper said the SHIPYARD Act also needs oversight requirements and penalties for wasted money.
Hooper wrote, “The SHIPYARD Act is a good thing, helping rebuild long-neglected critical Navy infrastructure, but it has been hastily and sloppily put together.”
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