The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard has gotten a boost from the U.S. House of Representatives in its efforts to remain open.
Congress has negotiated a compromise that requires the Pentagon to keep sending at least 60 percent of all maintenance work to military shipyards.The House on Wednesday passed the compromise bill, which essentially turns into law an old policy the Pentagon wanted scrapped. The compromise, part of the new defense authorization bill, now moves to the Senate.
Republican Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire predicted the bill would have no trouble passing.
"It is very good to have this in the law," Mr. Smith said. "But there's always the chance it can get skewed, like it did before."
A General Accounting Office report issued three months ago confirmed the suspicion of the delegations that private companies were receiving a bigger share of the work than they should. The GAO concluded the private companies receive as much as 50 percent of defense depot work, which the Pentagon first denied. The law states private companies are only to receive 40 percent of the work.
Workload is a critical factor in keeping the Portsmouth yard healthy as it enters the third and final round of military base closings in 1995.
Portsmouth has three boats in dry dock, but the USS Pittsburgh is leaving in a matter of days. The USS Philadelphia is scheduled to leave in December, but the shipyard is ahead of schedule on that refueling and the boat likely will leave sooner.
That means Portsmouth will have just one boat, the USS Memphis, in dry dock in January.
The Pentagon, after intense lobbying from major defense contractors such as Martin Marietta, General Dynamics and Lockheed, had suggested more work be
sent to private shipyards.
A report issued last May by Navy Undersecretary John Deutch suggested that the public-private bidding competition was damaged beyond repair and that it should be scrapped.
Mr. Deutch argued that the military depots should only be allowed to do ''core workload," that is, on machines necessary for national security. He recommended private companies receive the remaining work.
Military contractors and military depots compete for $22 billion worth of repair and maintenance work each year.