NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Tribune News Service) — The Navy is accelerating and outsourcing ship maintenance jobs in a move that could help Hampton Roads shipyards hit by layoffs, a top official said Thursday.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley said the work involves three warships and two submarines. He outlined the Navy's plan in letters to Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine.
Last year, the two senators suggested several ways to stabilize work on Navy ships after layoffs at Newport News Shipbuilding and BAE Systems in Norfolk.
Officials at those two yards have moved to cut 2,000 jobs between layoffs and voluntary reductions. Additional layoffs are possible. BAE notified 530 workers earlier this month that they will likely lose their jobs in March.
The Navy will accelerate maintenance work on the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg by three months and the dock landing ship USS Tortuga by six months, Stackley said. Work on the guided-missile destroyer USS Winston Churchill will be pushed ahead by one month.
The aircraft carrier USS George Washington arrived at Naval Station Norfolk Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015 following its forward deployment in Japan. The carrier's arrival is part of a three-carrier swap with USS Ronald Reagan and USS Theodore Roosevelt. Washington is next to go to the Newport News shipyard.
Those three ships represent potential business for BAE Systems, which repairs destroyers, cruisers and amphibious warships. Coincidentally Thursday, BAE was awarded a $14.1 million contract for work on the USS Normandy, the same type of ship as the Gettysburg.
Outsourcing submarine maintenance work represents potential work at Newport News, one of two U.S. shipyards that builds nuclear-powered submarines for the Navy.
Last summer, Newport News won a contract for maintenance and repair of the submarine USS Columbus. The award was for $57.8 million, but it included options that would increase the value to $288 million.
In a joint news release, Warner and Kaine said they appreciated the Navy's response. While it won't prevent all job losses, they said it would "preserve many high-skilled jobs to ensure we maintain a ready workforce for the expected increase in repair work in 2018."
The Newport News shipyard, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, is facing a temporary but significant drop in work due to finishing jobs on three aircraft carriers in the coming months.
Early last year, about 450 employees took advantage of early retirement deals. The company then furloughed 480 salaried employees in September 2015 and announced another 738 cuts in early December. Those layoffs become effective Feb. 3.
At BAE, company officials have shed about 345 workers — 185 in November and another 160 in December. Coupled with voluntary reductions, the current job loss stands at about 400, company officials have said.
That doesn't include the 530 that are pending in March.
A BAE spokesman welcomed the Navy's announcement.
"We applaud the Navy's efforts in Norfolk and will continue to partner with the Navy to identify opportunities for additional work that will preserve jobs and capabilities for the future," said spokesman Karl Johnson.
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