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US Navy fires Norfolk naval yard commander over maintenance delays

Norfolk Naval Shipyard Commander
Norfolk Naval Shipyard Commander, Capt. Kai Torkelson, speaking to reporters in June 2020. Photo: US Navy

The US Navy has fired the Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s commander, Capt. Kai Torkelson, the service said in a statement on September 21.

In a brief release, the navy said the Commander of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Vice Adm. Bill Galinis relieved Capt. Kai Torkelson “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command”, without revealing additional details.

Rear Adm. Howard Markle, Director of NAVSEA’s Industrial Operations Directorate (SEA 04), has assumed duties as the acting commander until a permanent relief is named.

According to a Navy Times report, Capt. Torkelson was relieved over his inability “to correct underlying performance issues that affect Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s ability to meet ship maintenance schedules.”

The US Navy has spent $2.8 billion in capital investments in fiscal years 2015 through 2019 to address shipyard performance, among other things. However, the shipyards, including the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, continue to face persistent and substantial maintenance delays that hinder the readiness of aircraft carriers and submarines, a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report said. For each maintenance period completed late, the shipyards averaged 113 days late for aircraft carriers and 225 days late for submarines.

GAO further said that three of the navy’s four public yards had made progress when it comes to workforce management. Norfolk was the only one identified as “moving in the wrong direction” according to the report.