With defense budget cuts a certainty, America’s shipbuilders are looking to emphasize their relationship to the U.S. Navy and national security in general. In an interview with Defense Professional, retired Rear Admiral Joseph A. Carnevale a Senior Defense Advisor to the Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA) emphasized the need for teamwork between the U.S. maritime industry and the defense sector. SCA is the national trade association of the U.S. shipyard operators and includes 50 companies owning 120 shipyards around the country. The organization also represents 72 other companies that provide goods and services to the shipbuilding community. SCA members build and upgrade vessels for private companies, the U.S. Navy, the Coast Guard, and other government agencies.
Carnevale spoke of the need of the U.S. military to cut costs, stating that “I think there is a sentiment that, at some point, the budget pressure becomes so significant that the Department of Defense will have to decide what missions they cut back on” and that “there will be capabilities or options that they will not be able to sustain because they do not have the necessary budget.” However, the former Naval flag officer emphasized that the naval shipbuilding industry must “work with its Navy and Coast Guard customers to stabilise programmes, promote efficiencies and resolve issues.” Continued Carnevale, “essential efforts have been made to build a trained workforce and provide them the necessary tools and processes needed for efficient production. Those efforts must continue.”
One way that U.S. shipbuilders can look to strengthen their positions is through foreign exports. Carnevale stated that the creation of the Littoral Combat Ship, a smaller and simpler naval vessel designed to be both high tech and affordable, provides U.S. shipyards with an excellent opportunity for foreign exports. Previously many ships built for the U.S. Navy were too complex and expensive to see high sales overseas, however, Carnevale claimed the “Littoral Combat Ship affords an opportunity for foreign sales that we haven’t seen since the construction of the Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate.”
What does this mean for cleared job seekers? That while shipbuilders are facing some uncertainty in their future, the outlook is far from bleak. The end of two large ground wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the rise of China means that more than ever in recent history, the Department Of Defense is turning to it’s naval forces to lead the way. This, combined with the potential of foreign exports of the Littoral Combat Ship and other vessels, means that shipbuilding and related industries will likely continue to be a source of good jobs in the future.
Mike Jones is a researcher, writer, and analyst on national and international security. He lives in the DC area.