Defense Business Brief: Navy supply chain challenges and worker shortages; FedEx wants missile countermeasures on its planes; and more
It’s been no secret: America’s shipbuilders have a shortage of the welders and pipefitters needed to build the Navy’s future fleet. Add the decline in companies that make unique parts for ships and submarines, and things get even more challenging.
Matthew Sermon, executive director of Program Executive Office Strategic Submarines, peeled the onion back on these two issues at this week’s Surface Navy Association National Symposium. Among the “fragile market sectors” he’s monitoring: castings, forgings, fittings, valves, mechanical equipment, and electrical equipment.
That list “might cause you to say: ‘Well, what else is there?,” he said. “But, you know, that's what it is. That's where we are. That's the reality of it.”
The other big item, and this is not unique to defense companies, is hiring and retaining skilled workers.
“We do not have that high-skilled technical trade workforce that we need to get to the demand signal that we have in the defense industrial base now,” Sermon said.
During visits to 200 suppliers over the past six years, Sermon said the “overwhelming story” from companies is welder, pipefitter, and machinist shortages. Some companies have built relationships with trades schools, high schools, and even middle schools in an effort to recruit future workers.
“We're working on a couple of very specific, pipeline kind of projects to prove out that we can do this,” he said. “Those are not submarine projects—those are all-of-us-projects, because that industrial base…is connected.”
Last month, President Biden signed three directives that allow the Navy to use the Defense Production Act to increase production of Virginia-class submarines.
“These activities will strengthen the shipbuilding industrial base and allow its heavy manufacturing and large scale fabrication suppliers to meet growing demand and expand the maritime workforce training pipeline,” the Pentagon said in a December statement.
Bonus: 60 Minutes did a deep dive into U.S. workers shortages last weekend. Watch it here.
The Supreme Court has blocked President Biden’s COVID vaccine and testing mandates for companies with more than 100 workers. Biden’s contractor vaccine mandate, which was supposed to take effect next week, has been suspended by lower courts.
FedEx wants to install military-style missile countermeasures on some of its cargo planes so they can fly over dangerous locations, according to a Federal Aviation Administration notice posted in the Federal Register. The notice states that FedEx wants to install the equipment in its Airbus A321 aircraft. Only problem: FedEx doesn’t fly A321 aircraft. Sounds like there are some kind of talks underway. The military has the same type of countermeasures installed on its large cargo planes and fleet of VIP jetliners that fly the president, vice president, and senior cabinet officials.
Ellen Lord, the former defense undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment during the Trump administration, has joined the board of Geost, a company that builds space sensors that help protect satellites.
From Defense One
Who's in Charge of US Space Policy? // Jacqueline Feldscher and Marcus Weisgerber
Space professionals worry the National Space Council is ceding its defense portfolio.
Military Chiefs Sound Alarm at Proposal to Hold 2022 Spending to Last Year's Level // Marcus Weisgerber and Tara Copp
In Wednesday testimony to lawmakers, service leaders decry what would be a record-breaking continuing resolution.
Impressed by 2022's Record Research Budget? Wait 'Til Next Year, DOD Undersecretary Says // Patrick Tucker
Heidi Shyu says lawmakers are eager to fund Pentagon's tech priorities.
US Navy May Put Autonomous Tech on Crewed Ships to Prevent Collisions // Marcus Weisgerber
It's the same technology already being used on uncrewed vessels.
Common Office Desk Phone Could Be Leaking Info to Chinese Government, Report Alleges // Patrick Tucker
Phones by Yealink have been observed sending encrypted messages to Chinese servers three times a day.
Russia Neither Accepts Nor Rejects NATO's Offer To Restart Talks // Jacqueline Feldscher
Representatives from Moscow and NATO members will talk with their respective governments about whether to continue discussions, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said.
The US Must Prepare for War Against Russia Over Ukraine // Evelyn N. Farkas
If Putin is not deterred from seizing another chunk of sovereign territory, he won't stop there.
Group leader: "There are Americans saying, 'Help me, help me, help me.' And the State Department is saying, 'Fill out your form in triplicate.'"