- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Navy’s plan to completely renovate its crumbling public shipyards is ambitious but simply takes too long, a leading member of the House Armed Services Committee said Wednesday.

Rep. Robert J. Wittman, Virginia Republican, said he was concerned about the lack of attention over the past several decades to the problems at the four government-owned shipyards in Norfolk, Virginia; Portsmouth, Maine; Puget Sound, Washington; and at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. To address the conditions at the facilities — each of which is more than 100 years old — the Navy has developed the 20-year, $21 billion Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program (SIOP.)

“We don’t have 20 years to do this. We need to be modernizing our yards now,” said Mr. Wittman, who serves as the ranking member of the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee.

“The upgrades need to be done at a faster pace,” he said.

On Wednesday, Mr. Wittman was the keynote speaker for “U.S. Navy Shipyards Are in Crisis: Understanding the Issues and Next Steps” — an online conference sponsored by the Heritage Foundation.

The public shipyards handle maintenance for the Navy’s nuclear power fleet — aircraft carriers and submarines. In an era of great power competition with near-peer adversaries like China and Russia, their decrepit and often outdated infrastructure will create problems for the country. If a ship’s time in dry dock is extended because of maintenance delays, that will impact on the ship’s ability to carry out its mission, Mr. Wittman said.

“That creates problems for the United States, especially when it’s critically important that we have presence around the world to deter our enemies,” he said. “If our ships aren’t there, that sends a signal to our adversaries about where we are with our seriousness concerning the United States Navy.”

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