Navy Ship Maintenance:

Temporary Duty Assignments of Temporarily Excess Shipyard Personnel Are Reasonable

NSIAD-98-93: Published: Apr 21, 1998. Publicly Released: Apr 21, 1998.

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David R. Warren
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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Navy's practice of using temporary duty assignments of naval personnel to perform ship maintenance and repair work at homeports without nearby naval shipyard capability, focusing on the: (1) rationale supporting the Navy's practice; (2) cost-effectiveness of these assignments; and (3) factors affecting future requirements for the practice.

GAO noted that: (1) the Navy's rationale for temporary duty assignments is twofold; (2) such assignments are required to perform work at locations where no local public or private shipyards have the required depot-level maintenance capability; (3) most temporary duty assignments are for this reason; (4) the Navy performs work at such locations to comply with its policy to perform ship repairs of six months or less at the ship's homeport and when it is not practical to bring ships to the shipyard; (5) the Navy believes that using temporarily excess naval shipyard workers on temporary duty assignment is cost-effective, even when there is local private-sector capability because these workers will be needed in the future to perform ship repair work; (6) the Navy's rationale for sending temporarily excess naval shipyard personnel on temporary duty assignments appears reasonable from a cost and operational standpoint; (7) however, in some cases, other approaches may be more cost-effective; (8) the Navy is currently retaining some temporarily excess shipyard personnel to ensure that it can handle the planned refuelings of nuclear attack submarines for fiscal year (FY) 1999 and beyond; (9) retaining the personnel for these purposes appears reasonable, since the Navy has a need for the personnel; (10) it is following the same practice to perform nuclear ship repair work at San Diego because local private shipyards do not have nuclear capability; (11) however, other approaches, such as making greater use of the private sector, may warrant consideration; (12) possible changes to future ship repair workloads could affect the requirement for future temporary duty assignments and retention of current naval shipyard personnel levels; (13) for example, the Navy has cancelled 17 planned nuclear attack submarine refuelings since FY 1993; (14) further reductions in the number of planned refuelings would substantially decrease the on-site workloads planned for three naval shipyards, especially Portsmouth; (15) a proposal to homeport three nuclear aircraft carriers in San Diego, California, which does not have a local naval shipyard, could substantially increase temporary duty assignments; and (16) other factors that could affect the amount of future temporary duty assignments include: (a) further reductions in the number of Navy ships; (b) full implementation of the Navy's Regional Maintenance Program; and (c) a new round of base closures.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy agreed to investigate opportunities to increase the amount of private sector repair work to be performed in the San Diego area. The purchase of ship repair facilities in San Diego by the two largest major ship repair companies has increased the potential for assigning submarine selected restricted availabilities to the private sector. One availability has been assigned to the private sector in 2000, two in 2001, and one in 2002.

    Recommendation: To ensure that Navy resources are used in the most cost-effective manner, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Navy to consider using the private sector for workloads that are performed routinely by naval shipyard personnel on temporary duty.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy is actively working to reduce the number of shipyard personnel and the physical capacity of ship repair activities to better utilize the remaining resources and hold down the cost of Navy ship repair work. For example, in Puget Sound, which was the area where GAO focused GAO's work on excess capacity for this report, the shipyard has reduced its personnel by 858 since 1997 and is planning to reduce physical capacity as a result of a consolidation of the shipyard with several intermediate repair activities during 2001. Navy officials said that their initiatives to reduce physical capacity are limited by the availability of funds for relocating equipment and destroying excess buildings.

    Recommendation: When reductions in future workloads are significant, the Navy should determine the extent to which it could reduce its shipyard capacity and associated personnel. In making these determinations, the Navy needs to ensure that all applicable statutory requirements are met.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy


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