The Navy “has not hired enough new workers to keep pace with the workload” as the amount of needed submarine maintenance has increased, the Congressional Budget Office has said.
“As a result, some submarines have missed deployments or had their deployments at sea shortened. The delays have reduced the number of sub¬marines that the Navy can put to sea, idling expensive ships and their skilled crews,” it said. It further projected that based on current practices—which have included more reliance on private shipyards—required maintenance will exceed the capacity of the Navy’s shipyards in 25 of the next 30 years.
It said that the shipyards and the Naval Sea Systems Command “reported that a shortage of workers was the primary reason for past delays. A shortage of skilled labor has been a challenge for all shipyards, public and private. The hiring and training process at shipyards is slow: Obtaining security clearances for new workers takes time, and it can take several years to train and apprentice workers.”
It said the Navy has increased hiring of civilian employees in recent years, reaching its goal of having about 37,000 workers at the public shipyards, and “is taking steps to improve productivity, including repair and redesign of its shipyards.” However, due to the pandemic, the Navy projects that productivity decreased by 5 percent in 2020, it added.
Among the options, it said, are: “keep the workforce at its current size, but improve the accuracy of maintenance projections and adjust ships’ operation schedules accordingly”; “increase the workforce at public shipyards from about 37,000 to about 39,500”; “shift some maintenance of nuclear ships to private shipyards”; and “reduce the size of the nuclear fleet.”