NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. —
June 28, 1982, a group of young college graduates became a part of Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s (NNSY) team. One of them came from Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa. starting as a GS-5. Born in Manhattan and raised in White Plains, New York, NNSY’s Nuclear Engineering and Planning Department Manager (Code 2300) Curtis Hart started his 37-year journey that would eventually take him to the office of the most senior civilian position in America’s shipyard.
“I started my shipyard career in the Nuclear Test Engineering Division,” said Hart. “I spent 17 years there before heading to the Operations Department.”
Making the move to the Operations Department was something that Hart didn’t foresee. He was content working in the Test Engineering Division until the Nuclear Engineering and Planning Department Manager at the time gave him a nudge.
“Bill Harman encouraged me to go outside my comfort zone. Once I got there, I enjoyed my job and the people I worked with.”
Hart spent 14 years in operations until in 2013 when he made the move back to the Nuclear Engineering and Planning Department as the Assistant Nuclear and Planning Manager. A year later he became the director of radiological controls. When James Kenney, the nuclear engineering and planning department manager at the time, left NNSY in 2018, Hart took on the position as a temporary assignment. A year later the job became permanent.
“One of the first things I did after taking on this position was sitting down with the then shipyard commander Capt. [Scott] Brown to discuss what changes were needed,” said Hart.
Selection panels for promotions became one of their first targeted areas for change.
“The shipyard is a very diverse environment,” said Hart. “However, management level is not. One of the potential reasons is that the selection panels were not diverse. Because of this, people were not applying for positions, thinking they had no chance since they didn’t fit the mold of the selection panel. When the panel became more diverse, so did the applications.”
To assist with making changes, Hart help chartered the cultural team, a group made of deckplate workers.
“The cultural team members are the ones who came up with the Care, Ownership, Respect and Excellence (C.O.R.E.) concept,” said Hart. “Since the introduction of C.O.R.E. we have seen changes in behavior, especially in the trust arena. We noticed there was shift from anonymous hot line calls to interaction with senior managers. We feel this is because people are starting to trust their supervisors more to address their concerns.”
Hart is a firm believer in leading by example and that C.O.R.E. is a great tool to use to enhance one’s behavior. “We are holding people accountable for their actions regardless if they are a WG-1 or a GS-15. This hasn’t always been the case,” said Hart.
One of the biggest changes on Hart’s list is to get back to the standard of delivering ships on time like the shipyard did when he first joined the workforce in 1982.
“Due to the age of the fleet, the increase of work, and other factors, getting the carriers and submarines out on time isn’t easily done. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done,” said Hart. “I had the opportunity to see the carriers in action firsthand. When you see those Sailors working around the clock and performing flight operations both day and night, it is a hardened reminder that NNSY’s mission is essential to our nation.”
Hart stated that in the beginning of his career, it was all about earning the dollar. 37 years later, his attitude changed.
“It’s about making a difference. What we do matters,” he said.
With the support of his wife of 32 years, Donna, his two daughters, Jessica and Taylor, and the support of those he works with, he will continue to make changes to better America’s Shipyard and its people.