Study: Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Poor Condition, Repairs to take Two Decades

A new study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows the Navy’s four public shipyards are in bad shape, including the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia.

The study finds that even though the Navy invested more money and developed an improvement plan back in 2013, the shipyards’ facilities and equipment are still in poor condition. The Navy estimates that its backlogged restoration and maintenance projects will cost $4.86 billion, and take at least 19 years to finish. 

Since 2000, the shipyards have had more than 1,300 “lost operational days”—days when ships were unavailable for operations—for aircraft carriers and 12,500 lost operational days for submarines.

Norfolk Naval Shipyard, which turns 250 this year, is the oldest among the four shipyards.

A four-minute video posted along with the GAO’s report showed an array of images depicting aging, deteriorating facilities, including rags stuffed into a hydraulic press to catch leaking fluids.

In one example, the study mentions a furnace used at Norfolk since 1931 to heat-treat submarine parts. Two years ago, workers found that the furnace didn’t heat parts evenly or to the right temperature. The Navy had to reinspect 10 years’ worth of submarine repairs, to make sure the parts would withstand deep-sea pressure. 

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) also had concerns about the dry docks used at all four shipyards. On average, they are about 89 years old. The oldest dock still in use was built in 1891.

So what can be done about this sad state of affairs?

GAO recommends that “the Navy develop a comprehensive plan to guide shipyard capital investment, conduct regular management reviews, and report to Congress on progress in addressing the shipyards’ needs.”

GAO says the U.S. Department of Defense concurred with all 3 recommendations.