The Senate Appropriations Committee, of which U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) are members, yesterday approved $11.5 million in the FY2014 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill that would fund an effort to consolidate the shipyard structural shops at PNSY more quickly than previously planned. The bill passed the committee by a vote of 23-6.
The project, originally slated for fiscal year 2015, was included in the President's budget request this year in conjunction with the delivery to Congress of a report from the Navy on improving the infrastructure and modernizing the Navy's four public shipyards. In the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act, Senators Collins and Shaheen requested the Navy report on the infrastructure needs of its four shipyards. The first project of that investment strategy was included in the President's FY2014 budget proposal and included in the FY2014 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, even as the Department of Defense has delayed or cancelled $4.1 billion in military construction projects during the next five budget years.
"The infrastructure of our public naval shipyards is woefully out of date compared to our other naval facilities," Senator Collins said. "Accelerating the consolidation and modernization of the shipyard structural shops is critical to improving this condition and improving the operational efficiency at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard."
"Our shipyard needs serious improvements and the men and women who serve at Portsmouth, along with the shipyard's mission capabilities, deserve our full support," said Senator Shaheen. "Fast tracking these investments for upgrades is the right thing to do and the Senate should quickly pass this bill."
The Navy's report was released in April 2013 and revealed the overall condition of shipyard infrastructure is below the Navy average. The average naval shipyard facility age is 60 years, with some facilities as old as 198 years, and the average naval shipyard dry-dock age is 79 years. Naval shipyards have a $3.45B facility maintenance backlog, which is higher than the overall Navy average.
On February 13, 2013, Senator Collins met with Assistant Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley and discussed the pending investment strategy. On April 24, 2013, Senator Collins addressed the strategy with the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, and the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, during a Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on the Navy's FY2014 budget.
In recent months, Senator Shaheen has also discussed the shipyard's infrastructure needs with top military officials, including Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Shaheen also chairs the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support which is responsible for authorizing these types of projects.