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HII CEO says labour boost will help Virginia-class submarine programme

HII is working on workforce issues to help stabilise Virginia-class submarine construction. (Janes/Michael Fabey)

Meeting labour hiring and retention goals will help get the Virginia-class submarine (VCS) programme back on schedule, HII president and CEO Chris Kastner said on 3 August during a quarterly call with investment analysts.

Asked what HII will do to get VCS back on “path” now that it is “well behind the two-per-year delivery objective in Block V”, Kastner said, “The largest obstacle, the largest risk on the VCS programme right now is labour and meeting our labour targets. We've worked hard here in Newport News [Shipbuilding] (NNS) to hire. We're ahead [of the] plan of over 3,200 heads for the year. That's some positive indicators. But this is a labour-driven issue. We've made good progress. We just need to continue to do that over the next couple of years.”

Workforce issues have plagued US naval shipbuilders since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. US Navy officials have cited these issues as national security concerns and US lawmakers have provided funding and funding incentives to address the problems.

Kastner noted, “We are continuing to devote substantial effort at both shipyards in the areas of recruiting, robust training, and retention of our workforce in this very challenging labour environment.”

He said, “We have attendance, we have attrition, [and] we have job-shop labour that can contribute to that. I will say there's potentially some upside if we're able to continue to meet our hiring growth goals and deal with attrition over the balance of the year. But we just need to see how the year develops.”

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