US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus speaks to Washington Navy Yard personnel Sept. 19 on their first day back to work after the deadly Sept. 16 shootings. (MC1 Arif Patani / US Navy)
WASHINGTON — Building 197, the headquarters of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) at the Washington Navy Yard, reportedly is a shambles. Even as the crime scene investigation continues, it’s apparent the building will need a great deal of refurbishment and repairs before the 2,000 or so people who work there can move back in.
The murder of 12 people inside the building on Sept. 16 inflicted emotional as well as physical trauma on the organization, and the first order of business when employees were allowed to return on Sept. 19 was to deal with the emotional fallout. But the task of getting the headquarters of a far-flung enterprise of 60,000 employees back in gear also is underway.
“NAVSEA has begun reconstituting the workforce so that we can continue performing our critical responsibilities,” spokesman Chris Johnson said on Sept. 20. “NAVSEA leadership is working to find alternate accommodations at other Washington Navy Yard sites, contractor facilities off base and the recently disestablished Coast Guard headquarters. Personnel will also be asked to telework whenever practical. From these temporary sites, NAVSEA will be able to conduct all necessary functions, including awarding contracts.”
Not all of NAVSEA’s major activities are headquartered in Building 197. The offices that manage aircraft carriers, submarines and littoral combat ships are in nearby Building 201, and are undamaged.
But a large chunk of the organization’s activities are temporarily displaced. Those offices include the two program executive offices (PEOs) for Ships and Integrated Warfare Systems; industrial operations, engineering, public affairs, human resources, and personnel support offices.
NAVSEA’s leadership is ensconced across the yard at Military Sealift Command (MSC), its assigned emergency location.
“We’re their designated backup building,” said Tom Van Leunen, a spokesman for MSC. “They’re also our designated backup command center. So there are plans in place for emergencies in terms of who goes where.”
But MSC, with a staff of about 700 workers at the yard, can’t host the full range of NAVSEA offices.
“We’re putting together a matrix of who’s going where,” Johnson said. “We should have a better idea next week of who’s going to what facility.”
Other activities in the yard, including the Strategic System Programs office, offered space. “We’ve offered conference rooms, office cubicles,” SSP spokesman John Daniels said Sept. 20. “We’ll be ready by Monday if they come.” He couldn’t confirm if NAVSEA had accepted the offer.
A number of off-base contractors with office space near the Navy Yard also came to NAVSEA’s aide. PEO Ships was in temporary residence at Alion Science and Technology offices. Other NAVSEA employees were at General Dynamics offices, and shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls offered space.
Government-owned office buildings at nearby Buzzard’s Point, vacated this summer by the Coast Guard, have emerged as a likely temporary haven, although it’s not yet clear what facilities need to be provided to accommodate workers.
Many decisions and deadlines that needed to be made in mid-September were temporarily put off, but NAVSEA’s field activities continue to function, Johnson said.
NAVSEA is the largest acquisition activity in the Navy, and the end of the fiscal year is a time when a great number of contracts are awarded. Dozens of contracts big and small are scheduled to be awarded before Oct. 1.
“We’ve directed field activities to continue awarding contracts,” Johnson said. “We’ll process those announcements, but they may be temporarily delayed,” even if the awards are made on time.