On the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina
and the total failure of an unprepared government to come
to the aid the storm survivors, untold numbers of Gulf citizens who died
unnecessarily as a result of this neglect and incompetence, a new man-made
disaster is looming on the Gulf Coast and it isn’t connected to the BP Oil
Spill. This one is, at first glance, just another giant industrial plant closure
and thousands of middle class job losses, another regional economic disaster-
but that doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story.
Northrop Grumman owns more than half of
all the major U.S. defense shipbuilding facilities in the U.S. Two thirds of
the Northrop Grumman shipyards are in the Gulf South—Avondale in New Orleans
and Ingalls in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Part of the Avondale yard, the
composites facility, is located in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Northrop Grumman has decided it no longer
wants to own shipbuilding facilities and has announced that, although
profitable, shipbuilding doesn’t fit its corporate portfolio. The
company’s plan, as we know it, is to shut down and close Avondale ASAP but no
later than 2013.
In the past, the shipyards that were
closing did so after completing its last ship. Not so with Avondale. Northrop
Grumman plans to shift its Navy ship construction from Avondale to Pascagoula,
Mississippi some two years before the final LPD program is complete.
Northrop Grumman (NGS) has made it clear
that Avondale must close. We ask why? Why the rush? NGS cites a
lack of Navy work, but we have been told privately that Navy Under Secretary
Sean Stackley is the driving force to close Avondale. Secretary Stackley was
the former program acquisition
czar on the LPD San Antonio program and is very familiar with Avondale shipyard.
The Navy, of course, denies that it has a
hand in anything to do with any of this. They say it is a corporate decision
and that they can’t tell a corporation what to do with work within a
corporation. Yeah, and I believe in the tooth fairy!
As the customer that pays all the bills
and awards all the contracts that NGS depends on, I am sure that the Navy is
simply being modest and down playing their considerable influence. Whoever is
behind the curtain pulling the strings on this dirty deed, it has serious
consequences. Some of these consequences are readily apparent while others are
not. Think about these points:
- Avondale and Ingalls shipyards are the largest
employers in the states of Louisiana and Mississippi—generating some $12.6
billion a year of economic impact on the Gulf Coast, three times more economic
impact than the $4 billion dollars that seafood and tourism industries generate
combined. When the seafood industry was threatened by the BP oil spill, the
world’s news media had TV cameras thrust in the face of every shrimp boat
captain on the Gulf asking: “how are you going to make a living.” Yet, this
man-made economic disaster shutting down shipbuilding has generated virtually
no media attention even though it poses three times a greater economic threat
to the Gulf Coast than the BP oil spill.
- The Gulf Coast NGS shipyards make up
one third of the entire U.S. national defense shipbuilding infrastructure and
are warm water ports. Once closed they will never be re-opened or rebuilt.
These massive heavy manufacturing facilities are capable of building anything,
including new energy facilities currently being proposed. Where will the
offshore equipment be built for the wind turbines and off shore oil and gas
facilities? Communist China?
- Avondale has historically had a
majority black workforce. What effect will shutting down the largest
employer in the State have on the poverty level in the black and Hispanic
communities in the region?
- What effects will the shut down and
layoffs of thousands of skilled craft workers have on the Gulf Coast’s
recession recovery efforts?
The new slogan for economic
recovery is “Made in the USA.” When it comes to jobs, we need more than