Admiral: Earlier Contract Awards to Help Shipyard Planning a ‘Sea Change’ for Navy

The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge is shown commencing a dry dock flooding operation at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in this 2009 photo. The Navy is moving to award ship maintenance contracts of at least 120 days in advance of the work, to help shipyards plan and order materials. U.S. Navy / Petty Officer 1st Class Emmitt Hawks Jr.

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy admiral in charge of maintenance of surface warships is pushing to award ship maintenance contracts at least 120 days in advance of the start of work in order to help shipyards plan the work and order materials and to improve the delivery time of ships back to the fleet.  

“We are on track this year to award at an average 120 days prior to avail [availability, or maintenance period] start,” said Rear Adm. Eric Ver Hage, commander, Regional Maintenance Centers, speaking Jan. 14 in a webinar of the Surface Navy Association convention. 

“That is a sea change for us,” Ver Hage said. “Just a couple of years ago we were averaging around 60 days. That time allows industry to plan, get subcontractors aboard, to develop a quality integrated master schedule, procure the materials that they need to execute the mission.” 

Ver Hage also praised the use of horizontal bundling, where the shipyard leadership is given planning funds and involved in planning for a subsequent availability well in advance. 

“The admiral said that as of Jan. 13, of the next 24 maintenance availabilities ahead, only one has long lead time material behind schedule “and we know by the use of data what corrective action we need to take.” 

Ver Hage said that best value criteria have been applied to awarding most contracts. 

“What that allows us to do is avoid a race to the lowest price that is technically acceptable,” he said. “That’s not always in our interests and it’s not always in industry’s interests. It’s harder to do; we have more training to take before we have all of the evaluation criteria.”    

Ver Hage also advocates expanding rotatable pools of large ship components, such as propeller shafts, main reduction gear components and major diesel overhaul kits that take a long time to procure.  

“We’d like to reduce time in dock and the time in the yard [overall],” he said. “If we can just pull out a shaft and stick a brand new one or a recently overhauled one in [the ship], vice including the overhaul time [of the shaft] in the overall project, that is where we want to be.”