Monday, March 20, 2017

A Bigger Navy? What About Our Human Capital?

In our desire to grow to a 350+ ship Navy, rightfully the first place people start to look is the budget. Without the money, all else is simply theories and talk.

Let's make the assumption that the money shows up. So, we just start rolling ships off the assembly line? Well, not so fast.

A partial answer is provided in a nice article from Mike Stone via Reuters
“It has historically taken five years to get someone proficient in shipbuilding," said Maura Dunn, vice president of human resources at Electric Boat.

It can take as many as seven years to train a welder skilled enough to make the most complex type of welds, radiographic structural welds needed on a nuclear-powered submarine, said Will Lennon, vice president of the shipyard's Columbia Class submarine program.

The Navy envisioned by Trump could create more than 50,000 jobs, the Shipbuilders Council of America, a trade group representing U.S. shipbuilders, repairers and suppliers, told Reuters.

The U.S. shipbuilding and repairing industry employed nearly 100,000 in 2016, Labor Department statistics show. The industry had as many as 176,000 workers at the height of the Cold War in the early 1980s as the United States built up a fleet of nearly 600 warships by the end of that decade.
The only way to grow our fleet is to grow our skilled trades, not an unknown challenge. Especially as the last wave of Baby Boomers just get too old for this line of work & we still suffer under an, "everyone must go to college" mindset, the human capital problem will only intensify. This is a good start.
To help grow a larger labor force from the ground up, General Dynamics' Electric Boat has partnered with seven high schools and trade schools in Connecticut and Rhode Island to develop a curriculum to train a next generation of welders and engineers.
Mike Rowe can't do all the heavy lifting on this culture shift. We need a change in attitude. Instead of having people get six figures in debt to get an otherwise unemployable degree in Sociology or Left Handed Latvian Lesbian Studies - what if we invested that in helping interested people learn a trade? It is a trade that pays well.
The two largest U.S. shipbuilders, General Dynamics Corp (GD.N) and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc (HII.N), told Reuters they are planning to hire a total of 6,000 workers in 2017 just to meet current orders, such as the Columbia class ballistic missile submarine.

General Dynamics hopes to hire 2,000 workers at Electric Boat this year. Currently projected order levels would already require the shipyard to grow from less than 15,000 workers, to nearly 20,000 by the early 2030s, company documents reviewed by Reuters show.

Huntington Ingalls, the largest U.S. military shipbuilder, plans to hire 3,000 at its Newport News shipyard in Norfolk, Virginia, and another 1,000 at the Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi this year to fulfill current orders, spokeswoman Beci Brenton said.
There is a sustainability issue to be concerned about as well. One that signals a need to take things slow and easy. No one is going to get hired on a promise, and one would hope for a career if you were going to go in to a field. No one goes in to a line of work to get laid off.

So, perhaps we should not be in all that much of a hurry. Have industry tell us what they can effectively digest, and then we should try to dovetail any increase along those lines. Perhaps this pressure will accelerate automation where it can be done.
Makers of submarine components such as reactor cores, big castings, and forgers of propellers and shafts would need five years to double production, said a congressional official with knowledge of the Navy’s long-term planning.

"We have been sizing the industrial base for two submarines a year. You can’t then just throw one or two more on top of that and say, 'Oh here, dial the switch and produce four reactor cores a year instead of two.' You just can't," the official said.

In his first budget proposal to Congress on Thursday, Trump proposed boosting defense spending by $54 billion for the fiscal 2018 year – a 10 percent increase from last year. He is also seeking $30 billion for the Defense Department in a supplemental budget for fiscal 2017, of which at least $433 million is earmarked for military shipbuilding.

A 350-ship Navy would cost $690 billion over the 30-year period, or $23 billion per year - 60 percent more than the average funding the Navy has received for shipbuilding in the past three decades, the Congressional Budget Office said.
Boring topic? Perhaps, but if you want a larger, more sustainable and scaleable Navy - it's sexy.

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