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Rep. Rob Wittman (VA-01) discusses what needs to happen to address issues with Navy ship repair capacity

The Future Navy Force Study has set sights on a fleet of more than 500 ships by 2045, surpassing the Navy’s existing force-level goal of 355 manned ships. But to do so, some say the force will have to renovate its shipyards first.

“Our ship repair capacity in the United States is old, it doesn’t have the capacity necessary,” Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., said. “We even see today that much of the work that is scheduled to be done is behind. Only 75% of the work scheduled to be done on ships gets done on time.”

Wittman, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, also noted that all four of the country’s public shipyards are more than 100 years old. This comes as the Navy looks to boost its unmanned capabilities in ships and underwater vehicles.

“The complexity of what needs to be done with ships today doesn’t match where we have the age of our shipyards, and also the dry docks in places where we bring these ships in to have work done,” Wittman said.

The Virginia congressman also said with China surpassing the United States in total number of ships, and rising tensions in places like the South China Sea, it may be beneficial for the Navy to have shipyard and dry dock capacities closer to the Pacific. While options for repairs exist in Japan, certain specialized ships and submarines must return all the way stateside.

“The question is, should we have some of that [repair] capacity closer to where we need it, especially with this repositioning of forces to the Indo-Pacific,” Wittman said. “If that’s where the Chinese are challenging us, that’s where our naval presence needs to be.”

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