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News | May 9, 2023

DCMA helps ensure timely delivery of critical submarine components

By Jason Kaneshiro DCMA Eastern Region Public Affairs

Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard personnel faced a challenge. During an attack submarine overhaul, they identified an urgent need for a unique component of a critical weapons system. Without it, the submarine couldn’t adequately perform its primary mission.

With time running short and mission success paramount, a Defense Contract Management Agency quality assurance specialist helped ensure the component’s delivery to get the submarine back on duty with the fleet to deter aggression and ensure freedom of the seas.

Joel Dahlgren, a QAS with DCMA Naval Special Emphasis Operations, maintained oversight of Teledyne, a large Submarine Safety and Level 1 vendor that produced the component, a hull penetrator assembly.

“Hull penetrators are a Submarine Safety (and) Level 1 component used to bring a circuit, such as an electric, or fiber optic, from sensors and machinery outside a submarine pressure hull to equipment inside,” Dahlgren said. “It does this while assuring there is no leak path to the inside of the submarine under all operating conditions.”

This particular hull penetrator was modified for a special weapons system to increase the quantity of electrical circuits that could pass through the submarine’s pressure hull, Dahlgren explained.

“Once the customer notified Teledyne and myself that the penetrator on order was an urgent need, I prioritized that need above other work,” Dahlgren said. “Additionally, I communicated to NSEO leadership the current status and estimated completion date of the hull penetrator.”

On this specific order, there were Requests for Variance that needed to be addressed prior to the acceptance of product.

“I relayed to the Navy contracting officer that the RFV was associated with an urgent customer need, and I followed-up a few days later to ensure emphasis was placed on this request,” Dahlgren said. “I coordinated information and product status to all levels of NSEO leadership and adjusted my working hours to cover off-hours and weekends to ensure there were no DCMA-associated delays with the shipment of this hull penetrator.”

Dahlgren credits his prior working relationship with the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard’s procurement contracting officer with how smooth communications were between them.

“I’ve had previous correspondence with the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard PCO. We had discussed contractual terms and conditions as well as a Request for Variance on a previous contract,” Dahlgren said. “Open communication with the PCO enhances our ability to administer the contract and meet the expectations of the customer.”

Despite a strong working relationship with the Navy PCO, there were challenges that threatened to derail the process.

“The biggest challenge was ensuring accurate information was being relayed to NSEO leadership and the customer. At times, conflicting information was provided,” Dahlgren said. “My interaction with contractor personnel on the factory floor allowed me to identify any possible delays in product delivery and provide accurate and timely updates to the customer.”

One of the key components of the U.S. industrial base's support for nuclear submarines is the network of naval shipyards located around the country. These shipyards are responsible for conducting routine maintenance and repairs on nuclear submarines, as well as major overhauls and upgrades.

Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii currently has several submarine repairs in progress including the USS TUCSON, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine that required the hull penetrator.

Another key facet of nuclear submarine support is the network of manufacturers and suppliers that provide the materials and components needed to build and maintain these advanced vessels, said Navy Capt. James Kuhlmann, DCMA NSEO commander.

“This is where DCMA NSEO QARs like Joel Dahlgren answer the call,” Kuhlmann said. “(They) play a critical role in supporting the maintenance of nuclear submarines and supporting our national defense strategy.”

Nuclear submarines are an essential part of the U.S. Navy's arsenal, providing a stealthy and highly mobile platform for conducting a wide range of missions, from intelligence gathering to strategic deterrence — missions critical to the defense and the protection of U.S. interests.

DCMA’s work in modernizing the Navy’s submarine fleet directly supports a pillar of the U.S. National Defense Strategy to deter strategic attacks against the U.S., its allies, and its partners, and simultaneously discouraging aggression while being prepared to prevail in conflict when necessary.

“Nuclear submarines are also among the most complex and sophisticated machines ever built, requiring regular maintenance, repairs, and upgrades to ensure their continued effectiveness and safety,” Kuhlmann said. “To meet the urgent need of the USS TUCSON maintenance team at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Dahlgren provided the required government source inspection and process oversight to ensure timely delivery for one of the first of its kind Level 1/SUBSAFE assembly.”

Efforts like these happen regularly to ensure our submarines are returned to the fleet and ready for the next mission, Kuhlmann said.

Dahlgren’s efforts were commended by Commander of Submarine Force Atlantic, Navy Vice Adm. William Houston, Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime’s senior acquisition executive, Mark A. Brown, and the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

“All of us at DCMA NSEO stand at the ready to support the warfighter,” Dahlgren said. “I’m certain any of my team members would have provided the same type of response to an urgent request.”