Sunday, July 10, 2005

BRAC This!

I had the privelege of attending a briefing at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard last week where we were addressed by Sen. Dan Inouye (D-HI) on the issue of BRAC and the Pearl Shipyard. He pointed out several facts of BRAC that I wasn't aware of:

1. The issue is that BRAC asked SecDef only to explain why the DoD chose Portsmouth over Pearl for closure (they did not add Pearl to BRAC).
2. Once the Secretary answers, there will be a hearing on the BRAC list.
3. It takes a vote of 7 of 9 BRAC members to add a facility to the list.
4. There is a large issue of capability in the decision; both are nuclear capable, however Pearl is a) in a fleet concentration area (with three full sub squadrons), b) in a prime strategic location in the Pacific (central to both West Coast vessels and those in Guam/Japan, as well as in Hawaii), c) Pearl is also surface ship capable/carrier capable (I don't believe Portsmouth is carrier capable, could be wrong), and d) the efficiency comparison used was a first-time DMP (for Pearl) compared to one in a long string of comparable DMP's (for Portsmouth).

The Chicago DMP was the first Pearl had done in years, and the first to include a major nuclear work pacakage (previous ones at Pearl had done very little in the back end of the boat). Chicago's included a complete reactor I&C upgrade to microprocessor (with Pearl being the first yard to use multipin connectors in the upgrade, previous installs at other yards used conventional wiring setups), a changeout of four reactor coolant pumps, and other major "aft" work including shaft changeout. The DMP from Portsmouth for comparison did not include RCP changeout, shaft work, or the multipin connectors (a skill that had to be learned from the ground up at Pearl...I was on shore duty in the shop that did them during Chicago's DMP, and it was new ground for our crew). Add to that some lengthy delays that were beyond yard control (material issues, mainly) and it ran long. By comparison, the Portsmouth DMP (don't know what boat) was not a "first timer" like Pearl's, and ran much shorter.

It doesn't seem likely to Sen. Inouye (or me) that Pearl will get added to BRAC. It's possible, but the Senator felt the issues of location and fleet concentration argued heavily in Pearl's favor. If New London does indeed close, Portsmouth becomes rather remote in terms of being near the Navy it serves, and even if New London stays it's still the least in terms of being near a lot of the fleet. Norfolk, Puget, and Pearl are all in rather heavily fleet populated areas, and the amount of voyage repair work Pearl does alone argues well for it's continued existence.

I can say that the efficiency issue has already been a wakeup call to Pearl. Efficiency is something the yard has struggled with, and I believe it's largely due to a complacent "federal worker" attitude, one of excess security. The notion that Pearl could possibly face BRAC left many here really thinking about the future...and both Sen. Inouye and our CO, CAPT Frank Camelio, stressed the efficiency issue as being the main one that sparked BRAC's inquiry to SecDef. Hopefully it will have the effect of "trimming the fat" and getting folks to put forth more effort at being efficient.

On a personal note, I normally wouldn't put too much concern into a BRAC issue for shipyards...but I have a stake in this one. Not only am I stationed at it (for the second time), but I am looking there for employment when I retire, as I plan to stay in Hawaii (contingent on a good job, preferably federal).

At any rate, I believe Pearl is fairly safe...but we'll see in the coming weeks!


At 8:14 AM, Blogger PigBoatSailor said...


I agree with you in that it appears that Pearl is probably safe. 7/9 is a big obstacle, and everything in your point #4 is a BIG reason why no BRAC member would want to consider voting to close Pearl.

However, a few things:
The DMP from Portsmouth for comparison did not include RCP changeout, shaft work, or the multipin connectors

Portsmouth has done RCP changeout and shaft work in a DMP, and has finally gotten around to doing it somewhat effeciently. However, they certainly were not that effecient when they just started doing them (as Chicago was PH's first one of this type). My boat was not their first, but we were close. 4/6 RCP changeout (but not the two noisy ones, *sigh*), analog to digital I&C, yanked the shaft completely out, redid shaft seals, every major breaker was replaced, you name it. However, we were there for over 15 months for a planned 12 month avail - so yes, Portsmouth has the experience, and they are efficient now, but it sounds as if PH is starting from a slightly better spot that Portsmouth was, and they have plenty of lessons learned from PNSY to help them streamline quickly.

So, yeah, I would lay money on PH being around for a while, especially if they learn from Portmouth's example on how to get LEAN.


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