Kiggans Aims to Boost Ship Repair in Hampton Roads

Apr 30, 2024
Armed Forces
Press

WASHINGTON, DC: Congresswoman Jen Kiggans (VA-02) and Congressman Scott Peters (CA-50) recently introduced the Smart Ship Repair Act (SSRA) of 2024, to increase the amount of time allowed to repair a ship at its home facility. Specifically, the SSRA of 2024 would require the Navy to change its current practice of soliciting ship repair contracts on a coast-wide basis from availabilities longer than 10 months to only those that are projected to last more than 18 months. 

Currently, ships homeported in Hampton Roads that need more than 10 months to complete their maintenance cycle can be moved to other facilities along the East Coast if those companies provide a more competitive bid to the Navy. This has made it incredibly difficult for the Hampton Roads ship repair industry to recruit and maintain a stable workforce and invest in its facilities. Additionally, it often forces sailors to spend their time ashore away from their families after long deployments at sea.

“Since 2014, the Navy’s fleet based in Hampton Roads has decreased from 48 to 28 vessels, resulting in a 30% cut to our Virginia-based ship repair workforce,” said Congresswoman Kiggans.“One of the best ways we can support our Navy and maintain the strength of our ship repair industry is to ensure our ships are repaired within their homeports. I am proud to introduce the Smart Ship Repair Act of 2024 so we can preserve the health of our defense industrial base and provide a better quality of life for our servicemembers.”

“San Diego is home to a vibrant ship repair industry that employs over 4,000 workers and supports the Navy’s force posture in the Asia-Pacific,” said Congressman Peters. “This bill will help protect those jobs and support a high quality of life for sailors and their families while also ensuring the Navy can meet its ship repair needs as it prepares for the threats of the future.” 

“VSRA and its 312 member companies have been decade long supporters of extending coast wide bidding to be exercised only for availabilities of 18 months or greater,” said Bill Crow, President of the Virginia Ship Repair Association (VSRA). “Almost half of private industry Naval repair availabilities exceed 10 months in length.  Out of homeport awarding greatly detracts from sailor and family quality of life already under undue stress from a greater than 58% operational tempo as well as individual port industry workload. Lengthening the threshold for coastwide solicitation from the current 10 months to 18 months results only as a positive regarding both the impact on sailors, their families, and the local ship repair workforce.  It is encouraging to the Virginia ship repair industry to see bipartisan support from both coasts to include this initiative into the 2025 NDAA.” 

“BAE Systems appreciates Congressman Peters’ and Congresswoman Kiggans’ leadership on the conduct of U.S Navy ship maintenance,” said Paul Smith, Vice President and General Manager of BAE Systems Ship Repair. “Overall, the Navy’s private sector surface ship maintenance workload is reduced with fewer ships in the fleet. The Smart Ship Repair Act of 2024 will help enhance predictability and stability for repair work that is 18 months or less, a vitally important aspect that allows sailors to remain close to home during that time and preserves shipyard worker jobs in those ports.”

The SSRA of 2024’s limitation on coast-wide repair solicitation only for maintenance periods longer than 18 months will stabilize the workforce and investment challenges currently confronting Hampton Roads’ ship repair cluster, reduce the likelihood of separation for sailors and their families stationed in Hampton Roads, and maintain flexibility for the Navy to utilize market competition to repair its fleet. This bill would also add transparency to the Navy’s ship repair solicitation process by requiring the service to report to Congress on how it estimates costs associated with ship repair.

Full text of the legislation can be found here.

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