If there is a single message Vice Adm. Tom Moore shares every day with his workforce, it's that NAVSEA is open for business. Moore, as Commander Naval Sea Systems Command, leads a global workforce of more than 83,000 civilian and military personnel tasked to deliver combat power to the fleet by designing, building, delivering, maintaining, and modernizing the United States Navy’s ships and systems.
“The NAVSEA workforce is unlike any other in the world,” said Moore. “I'm humbled and impressed with the resilience and the innovative drive I see in our women and men. Despite the challenges we are facing, they are finding new ways each and every day to support the Navy. I call NAVSEA the Force Behind the Fleet, and while that's a catchy phrase, there's real truth behind those words.”
The significance of open for business for Moore is three-fold. First, NAVSEA itself now has the tools and the strategies in place to ensure its workforce can complete its mission essential work in new and creative ways all the while protecting themselves, their families and their communities to the maximum extent. Second, NAVSEA activities have gone beyond their mission requirements, partnering with communities and organizations across the country making masks, face shields and designing new oxygen delivery systems. Finally, NAVSEA has expanded its contracting efforts to help minimize the long-term impact on the Navy and its critical industry partners.
Taken together, NAVSEA's record over the past month speaks for itself.
The Navy’s four public shipyards, Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii; Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington; Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia; and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, execute critical maintenance on the Navy’s aircraft carriers and submarines and were the first to feel the full impact on the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the critical nature of their work, NAVSEA took quick action to protect the workforce by allowing anyone who could telework to do so and allowing high-risk individuals to go on weather and safety leave March 17.
“It was the right thing to do,” said Moore. “It ensured the safety of our workforce and gave us the time we needed to assess the situation and come up with strategies to minimize the spread of the virus while maximizing our ability to execute our fleet support mission.”
Moore is confident in the safety measures shipyard leadership has instituted at all four shipyards. “We spread people out as much as possible by adding a third shift which reduces the number of people aboard the shipyards at any one time. We’ve provided additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), instituted a screening process for people entering the shipyards, installed plexi-glass protection in some work spaces where we can’t put six-feet between people, increased the amount of cleaning and disinfecting of work areas, and provided cleaning kits to the workforce.”
Shipyards have also manufactured cloth masks, face shields, and hand sanitizer to augment their stock. “This wasn’t something they were told to do – the shipyard workforce saw a need, figured out how to do it, and just got to work knowing that they were protecting their shipmates and local first responders,” shared Moore. Several of the shipyards have been able to share their locally made PPE with regional hospitals and have even delivered equipment to USNS Comfort (T-AH 19) in New York City and USNS Mercy (T-AH 20) in Los Angeles.
In fact, many of NAVSEA's commands, including the shipyards, are using their built-in manufacturing capabilities, including additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. NAVSEA’s 3D printers are being used in creative ways led by ideas from an even more creative workforce. The team at Trident Refit Facility Bangor located an open-source model for a door attachment that allows the door to be opened with a foot. With some modification they were able to design an attachment robust enough for their heavy doors.
NAVSEA's commands are looking out for one another, too. When the supply of protective masks at Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair, Newport News dwindled to 30, the command put out a call on social media, and that afternoon, received 100 freshly manufactured masks from their NAVSEA neighbor, Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The shipyard’s Sail Loft has developed a capacity to produce up to 900 facemasks daily, providing protection for both its employees and Sailors aboard in-port ships in Norfolk.
At ten locations across the country, NAVSEA's Surface and Undersea Warfare Centers provide unique research, testing and fleet-support missions. Collaborating across commands these activities have also produced masks, face shields and sanitizers, both in support of employees and their local communities.
Specialized teams have supported some more unique initiatives. Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division in Maryland partnered with a health care provider to test a modification to protective equipment used by health care professionals treating COVID-19 patients. In California, Naval Surface Warfare Center Corona designed a low-cost, mass-producible portable medical oxygen manifold in a matter of hours at the request of the United States Marines at Camp Pendleton. The manifold allows medical staff to simultaneously provide oxygen to eight patients from a single oxygen cylinder; and in Florida an NSWC team at Panama City designed a ventilator prototype with parts costing $850 that can be assembled in less than two hours. In the heartland, NSWC Crane offered their own less technical community contribution with a blood drive to support a state-wide shortage in Indiana.
With a flurry of new ideas being presented to Navy leadership every day from both the public and private sector, NAVSEA was asked by Navy leadership to stand up a rapid response cell to quickly sort through the ideas and get the best of these quickly to the feet. This task was handed to NAVSEA’s Naval Engineering directorate (SEA 05), the organization responsible for providing the engineering and scientific expertise to maintain and modernize the Navy. Over a weekend in late March, SEA 05 created the Naval COVID Rapid Response Team (NCR2T) to develop strategies to sanitize and sustain the operational viability of the fleet.
Led by Rear Adm. Lorin Selby and marine engineering director, Doug Arnold, the engineering team released fleet guidance on best practices for cleaning of ship spaces. The guidance balances the need for continued operations while also ensuring that Navy Sailors remain protected.
“This new challenge is unique, but falls directly within our area of responsibility,” said Arnold. “The ability of our team to focus our expertise and share tools and techniques across the Navy has a real impact on the fleet’s ability to continue its mission.”
Local commanders report these recommendations are already paying dividends. Cleaning of a space that normally took three hours, for example, can now be completed in 30 minutes. The team also developed recommendations for how to decontaminate cargo as a way to help keep COVID-19 off of Navy ships.
NCR2T is also exploring new pathways. Ultraviolet light wands, conveyor belts and large-area decontamination units are on order and slated for immediate testing and evaluation.
In addition to sharing the message to Navy organizations, the team also shared the information with Army, NASA and the Department of Homeland Security and has offered engineering support and advice to partnered nation navies.
Finally, the NCR2T team created a system that encourages ideas and feedback and is already reviewing the feasibility of 85 suggestions. Ideas can be sent to defeatCOVIDideas.email@example.com.
NAVSEA's portfolio of responsibilities extends beyond its own internal activities and into new vessel construction, surface fleet maintenance, surface and undersea systems and a number of other missions funded and supervised by the Navy but completed in concert with industry partners.
A March 20 memo from Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition, James F. Geurts gave the Navy acquisition community the mandate to reexamine processes that could provide industry partners with additional funding under current contracts and could accelerate the award of others.
Jim Lofgren, NAVSEA's Director of Contracts, said the NAVSEA team took this opportunity to heart.
“Using that memo as a guidepost,” said Lofgren, “we moved directly into a cooperative and collaborative environment, with PEO [Program Executive Office] program managers and industry leaders to identify potential targets across the command.”
The collaboration yielded significant results that Lofgren attributed primarily to a willingness on both sides to move faster. This cooperative environment removed much of the back-and-forth negotiations associated with these complex, multi-million and billion-dollar contracts that tend to hamper speedy contract awards. Not only has NAVSEA used this opportunity to facilitate a much-needed industry boost, the reduced contract award cycle time has enabled Lofgren's team to maintain a critical focus on Navy affordability priorities.
One of the unique strategies implemented is what Lofgren termed a "price-based approach" to contract awards.
“We awarded a contract for LPD-30 [the future USS Harrisburg] in 2019,” said Lofgren. “So, we had all the data; we knew the requirements; so we knew how much LPD-31 should cost.”
With that information in hand, NAVSEA was able to slice months off the traditional negotiation process while maintaining its adherence to federal contracting standards, awarding a $1.5 billion contract for the amphibious transport dock LPD 31 March 31. While this optimized award action began in January prior to the COVID-19 crisis, its timely award comes at a crucial point for industry and is directly aligned with NAVSEA's continuous effort to streamline contracting processes.
Additional NAVSEA cash-flow initiatives included a reexamination and release of additional retention dollars, funding held in reserve to protect the government’s interest; accelerated adjudication of claims on current contracts; accelerated contract awards; increased progress payment rates and the use of Undefinitized Contract Actions (UCAs) to expedite authorization of work and funding to the Defense Industrial Base to meet urgent mission requirements.
Lofgren said that taken together these actions have significantly increased NAVSEA's standard fiscal year midpoint funding obligations, based on previous years' numbers, from between $15 - $19 billion to a current level of more than $30 billion.
These efforts will have a long-term positive impact on the Navy and the defense industry.
“Awarding fair and reasonable contracts now allows our industry partners, from the big prime contractors down to the second and third-level mom and pop-type suppliers, to keep their trained people employed. This reduces the impact to our programs and sets us up to ramp back to normal levels faster once we come through the pandemic,” said Lofgren.
A busy six weeks
In the six weeks since the government’s max telework decision, NAVSEA, its field activities and its commercial partners have quickly adapted to the times and accelerated their production.
“It may not be unprecedented, but it's certainly been a busy six weeks,” said Moore. “We've continued our fleet support missions, adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic, and quickly learned how to continue to do business in a constricted telework environment. We're looking out for our people, and we're supporting the fleet and our partners in industry.”
Since mid-March, NAVSEA field activities have continued at pace in delivering readiness to the fleet. Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility completed the undocking of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the midst of a 14-month Docking Planned Incremental Availability (DPIA) and delivered USS Nimitz (CVN 68) early; PEO Carriers and Supervisor of Shipbuilding Newport News working with HII-Newport News Shipbuilding completed post-delivery trials of critical combat systems on USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and certified her flight deck for fleet use. The command also awarded major contracts for the construction of LPD-31 and for 15 Ship-to-Shore Connector vessels.
Overseas, Forward Deployed Regional Maintenance Center (FDRMC) Detachment Bahrain and Naval Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) marked on-time completion of the Docking Phased Maintenance Availability (DPMA) of USS Thunderbolt (PC-12) in Bahrain, while USS Ashland (LSD 48) successfully completed depot-level maintenance a day early in Yokosuka, Japan. In Norfolk, the command's Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance center along with a superb Navy diving and salvage team completed a rare underwater hub replacement on USS Winston Churchill (DDG 81) finishing the job two weeks faster than ever previously performed.
NAVSEA’s Supervisors of Shipbuilding, Program Executive Office Submarines, and Program Executive Office Ships delivered three new-construction warfighters to the fleet: two Virginia-class submarines, USS Vermont (SSN 792), the Navy’s first block IV Virginia-class attack submarine and USS Delaware (SSN 793), the first submarine ever commissioned while submerged, and the guided missile destroyer Delbert D. Black (DDG 119).
The Navy also took delivery of the futuristic USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) which will now enter a developmental and integrated at-sea testing period.
Supervisor of Shipbuilding Gulf Coast and shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries successfully launched the future USS Fort Lauderdale (LPD 28) and began fabrication of the U.S. Navy’s newest San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, the future-USS Harrisburg (LPD 30).
Moore emphasized that much more work had taken place, but that these were but a few of many key accomplishments.
“When you look at the capability we’ve delivered to the Fleet coupled with a workforce that surged to support their shipmates and local communities – this is what right looks like. I cannot praise the workforce enough for everything they’re doing to keep NAVSEA open for business,” concluded Moore.