The U.S. shipbuilding industrial base produces and sustains the U.S. Navy’s strategic submarine fleet, a critical and essential component in our strategic national defense program. However, with a sectorwide reduction in the manufacturing workforce over the past several decades, the industry’s ability to meet the U.S. Navy’s demand for more strategic submarines is severely limited. To meet the chief of naval operations’ stated goal of producing one Columbia-class and two Virginia-class submarines per year, the U.S. Navy and the shipbuilding industry must attract more skilled workers to produce components, subsystems and systems at all levels of the supply chain.

The SecureAmerica Institute (SAI) in the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, is partnering with the Department of Defense (DOD)’s Office of Innovation Capability and Modernization (ICAM) to execute a 12-month, $5 million pilot called the Shipbuilding Regional Industrialization Pilot (SHIP) program. SHIP, which is funded under ICAM’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) program, will combine data-driven analysis with relationship-based community mobilization to reduce the industry’s workforce gaps and enable productivity gains to build the naval fleet of the future. Leveraging a proven community-building approach, the SAI and IBAS teams will implement plans in key strategic regions across the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest.

SAI has a diverse and experienced team of industry-leading consultants, data analysis firms, supply chain analysts and regional champions to execute the SHIP program. These include The Barnes Global Advisors, Deloitte, 202 Group, OneDefense, SUSTAINMENT, Laboratory5 Inc. and LightCast. The SHIP Regional Champions serve as on-the-ground mobilizers for the program — connecting with and advocating for shipbuilding suppliers and other manufacturing stakeholders in their regions.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to work with our friends at the U.S. Navy and the SecureAmerica Institute on this critical initiative,” said Adele Ratcliff, IBAS program director. “We are poised to invest heavily in the shipbuilding and submarine supply chain with a major emphasis on workforce. The SHIP program is our way of setting the right heading for these investments, which are critical to the safety and security of our nation.”

The key deliverable at the end of the SHIP program is a unified and data-informed roadmap to set the stage for prioritized, high-impact, scalable and sustainable actions. When implemented, the actions will systematically address the critical shipbuilding sector workforce gaps. The two key areas for targeted investments include expanding the skilled industrial workforce through regional training systems and increasing manufacturing technology adoption to complement the skilled workforce.

“SAI enjoys every opportunity to work alongside DOD’s IBAS program. We are committed to making a significant national impact on addressing the workforce and supply chain needs with thorough data collection, analysis and planning,” said Dean Schneider, acting director of SAI. “Our group of partners is incredible, and we look forward to contributing to national security efforts together.”

Texas A&M photo