NORFOLK--The U.S. government won’t be shutting down next week thanks to the passage of the continuing resolution in the House of Representatives Thursday.
The budget plan is mostly good news for the Hampton Roads shipbuilding industry, but there are lingering questions about the legislation’s impact on the region’s ship repair industry.
HR 933 provides more than $3 billion to Newport News Shipbuilding, Virginia’s largest industrial employer. Those funds will be allocated to the refueling of the USS Abraham Lincoln, to start construction on the new USS John F. Kennedy and to decommission the USS Enterprise, as well as authorization for multi-year procurements of Virginia Class submarines.
At ship repair shipyards in the region, there is still concern because earlier this year, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert threatened to cancel maintenance contracts on eleven local Navy ships, an aircraft carrier, an amphibious assault ship, two submarines, three destroyers and four littoral combat ships.
The continuing resolution seems to restore the $287 million to fund those contracts through the end of the fiscal year.
Virginia Ship Repair Association President Bill Crow tells 13News he’s “cautiously optimistic” that “those availabilities won’t get canceled.”
Still, the Navy has not definitively said it will restore all that money and retain those contracts, leading members of the ship repair workforce to be concerned about layoffs.
“I’m kind of worried because I need a job and I’ve got to pay my bills,” said NSC worker Lawrence Davis.
“Yeah, it’s tough and not knowing if you’re going to be working the next couple of months or next year is real tough on us,” said NASSCO worker Cory DeWalt.
Members of Congress are relatively upbeat about the overall good the resolution will do, but they are urging caution when it comes to the ship repair section of the plan.
“It is true there is a degree of ambiguity with respect to the eleven ship avails,” said Rep. Scott Rigell. “Those are avails that were planned previously and I expect them to go forward. Can I say with certainty? No, I can’t at this point,” Rigell added.
Senator Mark Warner said that what’s needed is “a bigger deal” and “a more balanced approach.” Warner said, “Until we get it, this is going to hang over us in Hampton Roads.”
In reference to ship repair funding, Warner said, “We’re going to know more as the final numbers get crunched through the Pentagon comptroller’s office.”
Senator Tim Kaine was also unable to say with certainty that all ship repair contracts will be filled. “Exactly how they allocate those dollars from the continuing resolution fix to particular ship repair contracts, I can’t answer that one right now,” he said.
The continuing resolution vote was overwhelming and bi-partisan, passing 318 to 109. All four members of the Hampton Roads House delegation voted yes.
On Wednesday, both of Virginia’s senators voted yes on the Senate version of the bill.
The final measure now heads to President Obama, who is expected to sign it in order to avoid a government shutdown that would being on March 27.