Its been a while since my last post but I am trying to get my arms around my new job. I am a ship superintendent and assistant production officer for Arliegh Burke class destroyers. More specifically, I am working DDG-103, 105, and 107. Northrup Grumman and General Dynamics (the two primary ship builders) have been building destroyers for some time. However, because of Katrina, strikes, and other external factors, building destroyers on the gulf coast has become more challenging. Some ship yard workers did not return to work after Katrina because they decided that their job was not worth the risk of catastrophic weather. Others returned but found the rebuilding process much more lucrative as those with specific welding skills, wiring skills, planning skills, etc. were in high demand. The shipyard has had to rebuild itself and train new folks all while executing a contract written prior to Katrina. Many of the bean counters just figured that the destroyer program was going to work on auto-pilot regardless of the weather and blame the shipyard for not planning properly. I will tell you that the folks at Northrup Grumman are doing a great job going from being underwater to delivering ships.
As one can imagine there are a great number of “customers.” involved and priorities to juggle. Northrup Grumman is constructing ships according to the design resulting from the approved contract and ship specs. The ship specs are generated using naval technical manuals, system specs, and others documents. Over the life of such a program, there are a lot changes and adjustments made to accommodate “the customer.” One example of what I do: today the new crew approached us (supervisor of ship building representative) and claimed that there was an unauthorized part used on a ship system. I went to my engineers to discuss exactly what the ship spec reads. Then, look at the latest revision of what the fleet technical manual requires and determine a path that is agreeable with all involved. I could continue but I imagine that only 1 out of 10 that started this post will actually finish it so I will quit.
It is truly amazing to see one of these come to life. I have been on the customer side of the fence as part of a commissioning crew. In this new position, I hope to add value to the destroyer program by giving the tax payer the best possible ship for the money as well as help present the crew with a safe and robust tool of diplomacy and power projection to be used by the next 8 to 10 presidents.