Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Priorities Included in House National Defense Authorization Act
WASHINGTON, DC— Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today announced that the House FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act will include critical provisions for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
“I am so pleased that this year’s National Defense Authorization Act will include nearly $150 million for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to expand its capacity to repair the most modern generation of Navy submarines, the Virginia Class,” said Shea-Porter. “As the Navy moves away from older Los Angeles Class submarines to the Virginia Class, it is absolutely critical that the shipyard be able to use all of its dry docks to work on these vessels, and that’s what this funding will do. The bill also includes an important provision that opens the door for expanded hiring authorities to help the shipyard fill nearly 200 positions. The shipyard generates over $750 million in economic activity annually. We must continue to invest in this vital facility that creates jobs and is essential for the defense of our nation.”
The Readiness Title of the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act includes $149.7 million for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The money will be used to upgrade Dry Dock #1, construct new portal crane rail at Dry Dock #1, and modernize an existing portal rail crane. The rail cranes are used to support reactor servicing requirements at Dry Dock #1. The Los Angeles (LA) Class submarines require a new high-capacity portal crane to provide heavy-lift access to the reactor servicing complex. The existing crane rail does not have the capacity to support the new crane, which will be delivered in 2020 and is needed for the refueling requirements of the LA Class.
The renovations to Dry Dock #1 are critical to the future of the shipyard. As the Navy moves away from the LA Class submarines to increased use of the Virginia (VA) Class submarines, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard needs to increase its capacity to support modernization and repairs of two VA Class submarines simultaneously. Dry Dock #1 can only support the LA Class submarines, and needs critical upgrades to be able to support the VA class submarines. It is the shallowest of the three dry docks and requires a buoyancy assist system using 40-year-old tanks that are beyond repair and will be decertified by 2021. This project will allow the LA and VA Class submarines to dock without the use of buoyancy assist tanks at Dry Dock #1. If the project is not completed, this dry dock will only be able to operate at reduced capacity, while full capacity operations are essential to the maintenance and overhaul of nuclear submarines and to the mission of the submarine force.
The Readiness Title also includes a critical provision directing the Secretary of Defense to reevaluate the effectiveness of direct hire authority and to make recommendations for any necessary expansion or changes to direct hire authorities. Direct hiring authority allows federal agencies to streamline and accelerate the hiring process for new employees. The Shipyard has asked for expanded direct hire authority to make it easier to fill the nearly 200 positions it is hiring for, and to expedite the hiring of the best qualified candidates so that they are not forced, because of the excessive wait times, to take jobs elsewhere. This provision opens the door for future expansion of direct hire authority, which will greatly benefit the shipyard.