Pearl Harbor and other shipyards face review to ascertain readiness


POSTED: Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Government Accountability Office will look into Pearl Harbor and three other Navy shipyards to determine whether aging facilities and worn-out infrastructure might be jeopardizing the Pentagon's readiness.

Last week, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said the material condition of Navy shipyards at Pearl Harbor, Puget Sound in Washington, Norfolk in Virginia and Portsmouth in Maine will be examined.

Webb, in a news release, said the Navy confirmed in May that its funding backlog at the four shipyards dealing with sustainment, restoration and modernization projects had grown to $1.3 billion.

Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard's backlog was $312.6 million at that time.

The backlog includes projects needed to repair or modernize taxiways, high explosive magazines, hangar roofs, piers, waterfront buildings, galleys and other facilities.

Webb made the announcement during a tour of Norfolk Naval Shipyard. In July, Webb and seven other senators, including Hawaii Democrat Daniel Akaka, sent a letter to the GAO requesting the investigation.

“;The Navy's four public shipyards play an essential role in enabling the fleet's operational availability and mission success,”; wrote Akaka, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and his colleagues in their request to the GAO for a review.

“;Any degradation in the shipyards' physical plant and equipment is cause for concern,”; they wrote.

In particular, the letter called for an assessment of each shipyard's infrastructure, facilities and equipment. Also to be included is a review of plans for modernization; adequacy of past, current and future funding; and the impact on their work force.

Last December the Navy approved a multiyear plan for the 150-acre Pearl Harbor shipyard which proposed spending $600 million to $800 million in infrastructure improvements through 2035.

Capt. Greg R. Thomas, shipyard commander, has said Pearl Harbor structures are in “;desperate need of modernization”; and that the shipyard facilities' layout is “;outdated and inefficient.”;

Earlier this year, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, presided over the groundbreaking at Pearl Harbor in the first step in the modernization program: a $25.5 million military construction project to provide permanent facilities for the distribution of water, compressed air, welding gases and other utilities to dry docks and piers.

The shipyard, which employs 4,300 civilians, is the state's largest industrial employer and is the largest ship repair facility between the West Coast and the Far East.

Most of the shipyard's structures were built between 1913 and 1945. Many of the 176 buildings and 38 other structures—such as dry docks, piers and wharves—are scattered throughout the shipyard and are housed in outmoded buildings or temporary structures.

This is because early Pearl Harbor shipyard work centered on large aircraft carriers, battleships and cruisers, according to Kerry Gershaneck, shipyard spokesman. Maintenance work was done at these shops and not on the waterfront.

“;It's no secret we have a 19th-century facility trying to service a 20th-century fleet,”; Gershaneck said yesterday. “;We need to modernize the shipyard.”;

The Navy spent more than $50 million last year in modifications, renovations and environmental and safety requirements to keep Pearl Harbor shipyard's buildings safe and operational.