During various post discussions, we’ve occasionally kicked around the idea of government run ship building yards as an alternative to the high costs and low quality seen of late from the commercial yards. The proffered theory has been that the government couldn’t do any worse and might be better. Of course, the evidence is overwhelming that the government wouldn’t do a better job as demonstrated by the government’s failings at running the Post Office, Social Security, various welfare programs, Medicare/Medicaid, Obamacare, and so forth. We now have a report from the GAO (1) regarding the material condition and state of the four existing government owned and operated shipyards (
Sound, , Norfolk Pearl
Harbor, and ) and it puts to rest any forlorn hope that the
government could successfully run a shipbuilding yard. Portsmouth
To put it in a nutshell, the four shipyards are barely functional, ancient, decrepit, neglected, horribly maintained, and woefully underfunded. This is the most direct evidence that the government would be incapable of successfully running a shipbuilding yard.
Let’s look a bit closer.
Why do we even have government owned shipyards? From the GAO report,
“The naval shipyards are essential to national defense and fulfill the legal requirement for the Department of Defense to maintain a critical logistics capability that is government owned and operated to support an effective and timely response for mobilization, national defense contingency situations, and other emergency requirements.”
“The naval shipyards provide depot-level maintenance, which involves the most comprehensive and time-consuming maintenance work, including ship overhauls, alterations, refits, restorations, nuclear refuelings, and deactivations—activities crucial to supporting Navy readiness.”
These shipyards perform all the Navy’s nuclear maintenance activities.
Unfortunately, the yards are physically crumbling due to lack of care and concern on the part of the Navy.
“The Navy acknowledges that there has been a history of under-investment in shipyard restoration and modernization needs.”
Really? The Navy recognizes that they have failed to maintain the material condition of the yards and yet has consistently opted not to remedy the situation. That’s incompetence, gross negligence, and, given the critical nature of the services the yards provide to our national security, approaching treason.
Given the Navy’s failure, Congress has attempted to step in.
“Recognizing this issue, Congress passed a law in fiscal year 2007 that requires the Secretary of the Navy to invest in the capital budgets of the Navy depots a total amount equal to not less than 6 percent of the average total combined maintenance, repair, and overhaul workload funded at all the Navy depots for the preceding three fiscal years.”
I have no idea what dollar amount that works out to be but I doubt it’s anywhere near sufficient.
I trust this ends the argument that the government should operate naval construction shipyards?
(1)Government Accounting Office, “Naval Shipyards – Actions Needed To Improve Poor Conditions That Affect Operations”, Sep 2017, GAO-17-548