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Navy Shipyard Probe Curbs Work of 300

Friday, October 3, 2014

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The U.S. Navy has restricted the duties of 300 civilian nuclear workers at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard amid allegations that they received credit for training they did not attend.

In addition, eight employees responsible for administering the training program have been reassigned while the Navy completes its investigation at the yard in Portsmouth, VA, shipyard spokesman Jeff Cunnigham said in a statement.

In all, the actions affect about six percent of the shipyard's workforce.

Norfolk Naval Shipyard
Jermaine M. Ralliford / U.S. Navy

Norfolk Naval Shipyard workers remove a screw from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in October 2013. The shipyard has 10,000 civilian workers; about half are in the nuclear training program.

The 300 employees are working on the aircraft carrier USS Diwght D. Eisenhower, the submarine USS Maryland, and attack boat USS Albany. About half of the yard's 10,000 civilian workers are involved in the nuclear training program.

Anonymous Tip

The personnel moves came several weeks after an anonymous letter was sent to U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), who chairs the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.

The letter alleged misconduct within the civilian nuclear training program, and the claims were "substantial enough" that Forbes "immediately passed the letter on" to Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), which overseas the shipyard, reported WAVY-TV.com.

The letter specifically said that "some nuclear workers were given credit for attending continuing training when they did not actually attend," Cunningham said.

An independent review was then begun by NAVSEA and three other Navy shipyards, the Navy said.

Rep. Randy Forbes US Rep Bobby Scott
Official photos

An anonymous letter to U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes (left) alleging misconduct in the shipyard's civilian nuclear training program led to a NAVSEA investigation. U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott (right), who represents the district, said the allegations "are being taken seriously."

“This is probably the number-one shipyard in the world," Forbes told the station. "This nuclear program of the Navy’s is definitely the number one nuclear program in the world. We can’t take any risks, any chances."

Work Stoppage

The training allegations were not the only issue facing the shipyard in mid-September. A day after that investigation began on Sept. 12, the Navy quietly paused most nuclear work at the yard after discovering two lapses in "procedures for controlling potentially radioactive material," WAVY reported.

The Navy did not announce the work suspension; it was reported Sept. 25 by The Virginian-Pilot. At that point, Cunningham told the news outlet that the problems "were minor and did not result in any impact to the safety of the public, the environment or employees."

He would not say whether the workers in question had been disciplined, saying only, "We work on small problems aggressively to prevent larger issues from ever developing."

One source, identified as a "former high-ranking Navy official," called the suspension "a signficant shutdown."

The nuclear work had been restarting slowly but now has been set back by the new duty restrictions on hundreds of workers, Cunningham told Stars and Stripes.

Focus on Continuing Education

Cunningham told reporters that the 300 workers now under review have passed their qualifications but are also required to attend training between requalification. Cunningham said the Navy had "verified discrepancies" only in the continuing education program.

USSDwightDEisenhower
Senior Chief Petty Officer Robert J. Fluegel / U.S. Navy

Work on the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has been set back by back-to-back personnel issues at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

He did not elaborate on the discrepancies, but said they "in no way represent a failure on the part of workers to demonstrate qualification and competence in performing their duties."

Thus far, the independent reviews have verified that the qualification program "does not exhibit the same kinds of problems found in the continuing training program," Cunningham said.

“All internal and external reviews of Norfolk Naval Shipyard have not revealed any problems impacting the safety of workers, the public, or the environment."

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, a Democrat whose district includes the shipyard, said in a statement: "The Navy has informed me of its ongoing investigation of the Nuclear Training Program at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

"The allegations raised are being taken seriously, and the Navy has taken the appropriate steps to verify that appropriate training has been completed by all of the shipyard’s employees. While this may result in delays in completing scheduled work, the health and safety of the shipyard’s employees, our sailors, and the community are paramount."

   

Tagged categories: Accreditation; Government; Marine; North America; Program/Project Management; Shipyards; U.S. Navy; Worker training

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