WASHINGTON — The Navy secretary on Thursday convened a first-ever meeting of seafaring organizations across multiple federal departments, seeking to improve collaboration to strengthen the shipbuilding and ship repair industries.

Carlos Del Toro assembled the leaders at the U.S. Coast Guard’s shipyard in Baltimore, Maryland. The Government Shipbuilders Council meeting included the Navy, Army and Department of Defense; the Coast Guard, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security; the Maritime Administration, which falls under the Department of Transportation; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is part of the Department of Commerce.

“Our goal in establishing this council is to have a working-level council that’s taking a look at all the hard decisions across the shipbuilding industry, both commercial and naval, to be able to work together, share lessons learned, collaborate together, so that we can get to a better place in regards to particularly commercial shipbuilding in this country,” Del Toro told Defense News later in the day.

The council’s creation is among the first steps Del Toro has taken in support of his “maritime statecraft” initiative, which seeks to bolster the commercial shipbuilding industry in the U.S. as a means of further enabling the Navy and naval shipbuilding.

Del Toro said the council discussed the state of the shipbuilding industry, congressional authorities they have and still need, labor and workforce concerns, and how to better collaborate among the various departments to modernize shipyards to improve ship construction and repair activities.

He said the council will meet quarterly but that staff-level meetings will take place more regularly. The group will first establish metrics to measure their success and write and sign a charter to explain their mission.

“It really is fostering a working conversation between these agencies so that the secretaries and the heads of the agencies as well, too, on a whole-of-government basis can come together and perhaps propose new legislation that can get us to a better place,” the secretary said.

Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.

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