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Navy official: Portsmouth Naval Shipyard dry dock project on track

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard's primary mission is the overhaul, repair and modernization of Los Angeles-class submarines. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard provides the U.S. Navy's nuclear powered submarine fleet with quality overhaul work in a safe, timely and affordable manner. (U.S. Navy/Released)

After a recent report found fault with the overall condition of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard’s infrastructure, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen on Wednesday received assurance from a top Navy official that a multi-mission dry dock project is on track to be submitted in the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2021 budget request.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on maintaining and optimizing the nation’s ship and submarine fleet, Shaheen, D-N.H., questioned U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Thomas Moore on the critical dry dock project, next in line to improve shipyard operations after the superflood basin.

The superflood basin is essentially a locking mechanism that raises water levels to get submarines in and out of dry dock. The multi-mission project will build a wall that bisects the flood basin creating two new dry docks.

In response to Shaheen’s question, Moore confirmed the project’s future in the budget request, calling it a “key component of our overall strategy.”

“The multi-mission dry dock modernization plan includes the construction of two Virginia-class capable dry docks, within the footprint of the P-310 super flood basin,” said shipyard spokesman Jeremy Lambert.

The super flood project was awarded to Cianbro Corporation on Nov. 21, Lambert said.

“The multi-mission dry dock will provide PNSY with additional service capability and capacity to successfully meet the shipyard’s critical maintenance mission for the Navy,” he said.

A report released by the General Accounting Office recently stressed the need for several large-scale modernization projects currently underway or in queue at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The report found 71% of projects are completed late at PNSY, and equipment on average is 3½ years beyond the expected service life.

The GAO is a government agency that provides auditing, evaluation and investigative services for Congress.

The report found fault with the condition of all four of the country’s public shipyards, and focused on the Navy’s 2018 Shipyard Optimization Plan created to address deficiencies and an aging infrastructure with $21 billion worth of investment over the next 20 years.

But shipyard officials told the Associated Press last week on-time delivery is continuing among modernization efforts. Deputy Public Affairs Officer Gary Hildreth referenced the ongoing construction projects as “critical” to PNSY’s effort to meet mission requirements and return vessels to the fleet.

During the Senate committee hearing, Shaheen referenced her Nov. 22 visit to PNSY, where she joined fellow Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, to celebrate the groundbreaking for a Paint, Blast and Rubber Facility and Defense Logistics Agency warehouse, both funded through the fiscal year 2019 military construction budget.

Shaheen said the projects “are critical pieces if we are going to continue making the shipyard more efficient.”

These projects were among those for which the federal delegation rang the alarm earlier this year when Trump announced he would be able to divert military construction funds to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border under his declared national emergency. Ultimately, all projects in question — including $157 million to construct the super flood basin and extending portal crane rails for Dry Dock 1 — saw contracts successfully awarded.

Shaheen also addressed the need to expand the industrial supply base that builds new vessels and provides replacement parts, noting that during the Cold War, the U.S. submarine fleet “…had over 17,000 suppliers, now we have about 3,500 active suppliers” among growing Chinese and Russian submarine power.


© 2019 the Foster’s Daily Democrat