A Guy in a Vest or Northrop Grumman – You Choose

We hear and read about so many – too many—contracts gone wrong. Is it the contract itself? The prime contractor? Below-average frontline workers? Is the military client at fault? We have an idea, but more on that later.

The Navy has discovered another round of construction problems on Northrop Grumman– built ships. Two years ago the Navy’s largest shipbuilder had welding issues at its Newport News facility. Now the Navy reports challenges farther south at the Avondale, La., facility as well as Pascagoula, Miss. Deficiencies include improper welds, defective engines and lube oil systems problems.

Unfortunately the shoddy workmanship has been found on multiple vessels including San Antonio class amphibious transport docks, several Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyers and at least one amphibious assault ship.

Two amphibs already have been sidelined for repairs – the USS San Antonio (LPD 17) and the brand new USS New York (LPD 21) that just attended its commissioning ceremonies in New York City to much fanfare. (It is constructed in part with steel extracted from the World Trade Center.)

Navy inspectors are checking thousands of welds and deficient systems. Though the ships are not thought to be in any danger, the problems could present significant issues with some wear, and vessel life spans could be cut.
As a result of, let’s call it “Grummangate,” all Gulf Coast pipe welders and pipe inspectors have been de-certified until they are retrained and tested.

So who’s more of a threat, a guy in a vest or Northrop Grumman?

We say Northrop, and speculate (we have no proof) that increased demands on the Gulf Coast facilities without corresponding funding may be to blame. For example, let’s say a proper pipe weld takes 30 minutes. If the welding part of the project was not adequately funded, the shipyard might say, “Those welds can take no more than 15 minutes.” Profits are maximized. At the same time risk is increased, but the contractor has figured in the cost and comes out ahead no matter what.

Navy Shipbuilding: Who can you trust?

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