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06 Jan 22. Workforce development, process improvements will make or break the Virginia-class submarine program. The U.S. Navy’s Virginia-class attack submarine program is playing catch-up after falling at least a year behind schedule. But it’s still facing a pair of challenges in the next several years: The addition of a Virginia Payload Module will increase the workload to build Virginia SSNs by about 33%, and the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program will consume an increasing proportion of the workforce and attention within the submarine-industrial base — potentially leaving the Virginia subs to fall further behind.
Though the Block IV boats being built now by General Dynamics Electric Boat and its industry team originally had a 60-month construction timeline, Electric Boat President Kevin Graney told Defense News the timeline is actually in the “low 70s.”
But he’s hoping to rein in that schedule growth now — driving it down to 68 or 67 months — before that task gets any harder.
One technique is identifying an early milestone — in this case, the initial fill of the nuclear reactor plant — and then trying to achieve that a month early for every submarine.
Additionally, he said, there are a lot of new employees working on the Virginia program since many experienced shipbuilders were moved to the Columbia program, which is the Navy’s top priority and has no room for a schedule slip.
With that fresh labor force comes challenges in getting work done right the first time, but it also means new employees are questioning old processes and sometimes coming up with alternatives that shave time off the schedule.
Graney said the company has been good about empowering employees to do this, but needs to improve when it comes to documenting the successful ideas. He said Electric Boat will relook at its documentation to ensure lessons learned are codified and repeated boat after boat.
Graney noted the shipbuilding industry as a whole is struggling to recruit and retain new employees — especially as wages in other sectors rise so much that “the difference between working at a skilled position at a shipyard versus in fast food has kind of shrunk.”
Still, his “secret weapon” amid this workforce challenge is the tight collaboration between federal, state and local governments in Connecticut and Rhode Island to create a training pipeline for new recruits.
“We are working harder than I think we would have predicted two years ago on getting recruits, getting them hired, getting them into the training schools, and then getting them out the other end so they can get on the deck plate and start to gain proficiency,” Graney said.
“What I’m thrilled about is, we can go in … and say: ‘Hey, we’ve got a problem with welds passing magnetic particle testing. We want you guys to incorporate something in your curriculum that gets the guys to be proficient.’ And in the next cohort, they’ve got something developed and implemented. So that is an incredible agility that I don’t think has ever existed before. Fantastic, provided of course you can find the people and keep the pipelines filled,” the executive added.
The success — or failure — of these recruiting, training and retention efforts will impact Virginia program alone, Graney said, because the Columbia program will always be given the talent and resources it needs to stay on track.
“If we’re short people, we’re going to be short people on Virginia,” he said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
07 Jan 22. Sounding alarm on China, Japan and U.S. vow to collaborate more on defence. United States and Japan on Friday voiced strong concern about China’s growing might and pledged to work together to push back against attempts to destabilise the region, including against emerging defence threats. The comments from the two allies, in a joint statement that followed a virtual “two-plus-two” meeting of their foreign and defence ministers, highlights how deepening alarm about China – and increasing tension over Taiwan – have put Japan’s security role in greater focus.
In their meeting, the ministers expressed concerns that China’s efforts “to undermine the rules-based order” presented “political, economic, military and technological challenges to the region and the world,” the joint statement said.
“They resolved to work together to deter and, if necessary, respond to destabilising activities in the region,” it said.
The ministers also said they had “serious and ongoing concerns” about human rights issues in China’s Xinjiang and Hong Kong regions and underscored the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
While pacifist Japan retains close economic ties to China, there is growing concern in Tokyo about a potential move by Beijing against democratic Taiwan.
“This is clearly a combined message reflecting a common concern, not a case of U.S. arm-twisting to get Japan to sign onto vague euphemisms,” said Daniel Russel, who served as the top U.S. diplomat for Asia under Obama and is now with the Asia Society Policy Institute.
“In particular, the expression of joint resolve to respond if necessary to destabilising activities comes across as a powerful expression of alliance solidarity and determination.”
Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the two countries would sign a new defence collaboration deal to counter emerging threats, including hypersonics and space-based capabilities.
Blinken said the U.S.- Japan alliance “must not only strengthen the tools we have, but also develop new ones”, citing Russia’s military buildup against Ukraine, Beijing’s “provocative” actions over Taiwan and North Korea’s latest missile launch. North Korea fired a “hypersonic missile” this week that successfully hit a target, its state news agency said.
Following the meeting, Japan’s foreign minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, said Tokyo had explained its plan to revise the national security strategy to fundamentally boost defence capabilities, which he said was strongly supported by his U.S. counterparts.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in October promised to revise Japan’s security strategy to consider “all options including possession of the so-called enemy-strike capabilities”.
Kishida’s government has approved record defence spending, with a 10th straight annual increase in 2022.
Jeffrey Hornung, a Japanese security policy expert at the Rand Corporation, a U.S.-backed think tank, said while options for Japan to use force are realistically limited, a Taiwan emergency would be one potential scenario that Japan could deem as threatening its survival.
“There is no coded messaging here,” Hornung said.
“China is the challenge and they said as much, then detailed all the ways the alliance is determined to work to counter its destabilising activities.” (Source: Reuters)
06 Jan 22. Shared Challenges, Strengthening Alliance at Center of U.S.-Japan Defense Meeting. Increased tensions in the Indo-Pacific region and the strengthening of military relations were the topics of discussion when U.S. and Japanese diplomatic and defense leaders met virtually for the 2022 U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee Meeting.
Participating in the discussion from the U.S. were Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, and Rahm Emanuel, ambassador to Japan. Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa and Defense Minister Kishi Nobuo represented Japan.
During opening remarks, Austin touched on the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance.
“We know how strong that alliance is today,” Austin said. “It remains the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the region. We’re rightly proud that it’s built upon a foundation of not just common interests but also shared values.”
However, Austin also noted that some of the interests shared by the U.S. and Japan are at risk due to growing aggression in the Indo-Pacific.
“We’re meeting against a backdrop of increased tensions and challenges to the free, stable and secure Indo-Pacific region that we both seek … challenges posed by North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and by the coercive and aggressive behavior of the People’s Republic of China.” Austin said.
To counter those threats, the U.S. and Japanese militaries are looking for ways to enhance readiness and strengthen integrated deterrence capabilities. Last month, he said, the U.S. and Japan concluded participation in the military exercise Yama Sakura 81. This latest iteration of the exercise was the largest it has been in 40 years.
The Yama Sakura annual training exercise focuses on the defense of Japan with bilateral planning, coordination and interoperability between the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force and U.S. military units.
Austin also noted that last month the U.S. and Japan completed the military exercise Resolute Dragon, a bilateral field training exercise held in Japan which focused on integrated deterrence and involved over 4,000 service members from the U.S. Marine Corps and the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force.
“We truly remain grateful for the support that Japan continues to provide U.S. forces deployed there … and for an extraordinary level of mutual cooperation against the full spectrum of military capabilities,” he said. “We will — and we must — continue to work even more closely together.”
Thursday’s virtual meeting builds on discussions held last year in Tokyo, Austin said, and will help the two nations develop a framework for cooperation going forward.
“This framework will include, first, enhancing alliance capabilities across all domains; also evolving our roles and missions to reflect Japan’s growing ability to contribute to regional peace and stability; and optimizing our alliance force posture to strengthen deterrence,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
05 Jan 22. The 2022 Outlook for Navy Shipbuilding: An Uncertain Course for the Future Fleet. Presentation by Eric J. Labs, an analyst in CBO’s National Security Division, to the Bank of America 2022 Defense Outlook and Commercial Aerospace Forum.
The Navy’s recent shipbuilding plans have called for a much larger fleet of manned ships and hundreds of new unmanned systems. CBO examines those plans’ implications for the size and composition of the fleet, with special emphasis on the Navy’s surface ships. Potential costs of the plans are considered in light of the history of the Navy’s shipbuilding budget. CBO also examines the challenges to achieving the Navy’s goals. (Source: Congressional Budget Office)
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