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Thank you RDML Jim Downey

4 Jun 2018 10:25 AM | Stephanie Kiffer (Administrator)

On Wednesday May 16, 2018 the ASNE Tidewater section held a joint meeting with the Virginia Ship Repair Association (VSRA). There were over 90 people in attendance to represent both organizations. The guest speaker was RDML Jim Downey. He is the Deputy Commander, Surface Warfare (SEA 21) and the Commander, Navy Regional Maintenance Center (CNRMC). The RDML discussed the structure of the organizations he oversees, the current workload, trends around cost and schedules, extending life of surface vessels and the initiatives involving these vessels.


The two organizations RDML Downey oversees have multiple layers that touch virtually every part of the shipbuilding industry, particularly when focusing on repair and sustainment. The SEA 21 side of his responsibility covers both the active and inactive fleets around the world. Current total value for FY16-22 is estimated at $21.78 Billion dollars. I found it interesting to learn that many of the inactive vessels are actually sold to other countries to meet their defense and security needs. The CNRMC side consists of 6 maintenance centers for the US. This group focuses on what maintenance is needed on a yearly basis, who has capacity to perform said maintenance and do those locations have room in their schedule. It is a constantly changing schedule that never has enough room for all the maintenance that needs to be performed. RDML Downey talked about how he has two offices but rarely spends time in either due to his demanding travel schedule. With two organizations to keep running full speed ahead I can see why he spends so much time on capital hill lobbying for the much needed resources to keep the fleet afloat.

The current workload and trends look promising for the future and achieving the 355 ship directive passed recently. The RDML discussed the two most active areas for the 43 ships in execution stage currently are San Diego and Norfolk/Portsmouth. Very good news for our area! There are 92 ships in advanced planning that involves all the coastal area of the US. An interesting fact- 53 ships are sitting in storage for retention and disposal today. The majority of these ships are slated for dismantle and training purposes. In 2015 there was a slump in the number of surface ships; a record low. Looking at the outlook for FY15-24 the number of surface ships in on an increase. By FY24 three of the five RMCs will be showing an upward trend in the number of surface ships.

One of the biggest questions is how are we going to achieve 355 ships? The timeline is to have 355 ships by 2047. This will be accomplished by a mix of new construction and what is being called SLE (Surface Life Extension). Bottom line is there is not enough capacity to build 355 new ships so we have to work to extend the life of some of the ships currently in service. Breaking it down by class combatants and submarines will be the two largest by number of ships. Assessing each ship individually for service life extension will require more manpower, time and cost for the Navy. RDML Downey plays a critical role in making sure this assessment happens in a timely manner to give an accurate picture of the fleet today and the future. It’s not can we achieve 355, it’s how will we do it and be on time?

There are many unanswered questions still regarding how the Navy and the private sector will be able to work together to keep the fleet running smoothly. We have much room for improvement both at the government level and the yard level. RDML was asked if the perspective of Washington DC displayed on the news was accurate. He said its actually worse in person in his opinion. When asked if he felt improvement was achievable in regards to meeting repair schedules with costly deviations he replied there needs to be a better process for working through deviations in a timely manner. He shared the frustration of seeking a deviation for simple pump that takes more than 30 days to process. Ultimately I think continued work towards standardization where possible and common goals only benefits every level of this industry. I thank RDML Downey for breaking this huge topic into understandable sections and look forward to the opportunity to cross his path again.

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