Better Housing and Shipyard Perks Part of Raft of Quality of Life-Focused Requests in Navy Budget

A tugboat tows a barge, assigned to amphibious assault ship USS Essex.
A tugboat tows a barge (APL-2), assigned to amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), during a pier relocation in San Diego, Jan. 13, 2023. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Omar Dominquez)

The Navy's new budget for 2024 is asking for more that $250 million to improve the quality of life for sailors in the shipyards.

According to documents released by the Navy on Monday, the sea service is not only requesting the money to build three parking garages and two new recreational facilities at its shipyards but also upgrade and build more housing barges.

The living conditions at shipyards have risen to the forefront following a spate of suicides aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington that was exposed last spring. Sailors who spoke with cited incredibly long commutes and tough conditions for sailors living on the ship as being major stressors. Another carrier in the yard, the Theodore Roosevelt, also experienced a smaller suicide cluster this winter.

Read Next: Big Pay Raises, Universal Pre-K: Biden's Pentagon Unveils Annual Budget Plans asked the Navy which shipyards it plans to put the new facilities in but did not receive an answer before publication.

In addition to the new garages and recreational facilities, the Navy said it wants $11 million for off-ship housing for the under-construction aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy.

The ship is under construction at Newport News shipyard, the same location where the George Washington is still undergoing a mid-life refit.

"Where ships are delayed from delivery, we're actually putting money in our budget to put them in private housing before crew move aboard because that's been extended," the Navy's budget boss, Rear Adm. John Gumbleton, told reporters at an event Friday.

Meanwhile, the promised spending on housing barges is meant to address an issue that goes back decades. The vessels -- essentially floating barracks -- are used to house some sailors on ships that are undergoing maintenance in the yards.

They also have a long reputation for being uncomfortable and filthy. A 1981 government watchdog report said that, even then, the Navy felt that "many of its older barges do not meet habitability standards." That report also noted that most of the sea service's inventory of barges at the time were built between 1944 and 1946. In 2021, Task and Purpose reported that not only were many still in service but that the quality of life aboard had not improved.

That same year, the Navy announced it had started building new housing barges. They are "set to replace the 27 legacy berthing barges that are reaching the end of their service lives," the Navy explained in a press release.

In addition to housing improvements for sailors stationed on ships undergoing maintenance, the Navy is also asking for money to improve the barracks for Marines stationed at Marine Barracks Washington and townhomes on the Navy's main base in Japan -- Yokosuka.

The service is also asking for funds to build three new child care centers in Little Creek and Hampton Roads, both of which are in Virginia, and on its base in Guam.

"We want to support the families as well," Gumbleton said, before adding that the budget aims to do so by "getting after multiple different vectors."

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

Related: Top Enlisted Marine Predicts More Money for Barracks in New Budget

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