On March 13, 2020 Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) leadership triggered the closure of any space not designated as mission essential, including a production line in Port Hueneme, Calif. “When our customers shut down, we shut down,” said the NAVWAR Expeditionary support office project manager, site lead and NIWC Pacific embedded employee to the Shore and Expeditionary Integration Program Office. “Everybody thought this was going to be a 30-day shut down.”
The production line provides services such as radio maintenance, tactical vehicle integration and installation, as well as shipping and receiving for the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) and other support to fleet customers. In terms for the warfighter: the production line modernizes and upgrades all the communication equipment in the vehicles so the Marines and Sailors of expeditionary forces are able to communicate during operations.
“We were ahead of schedule before but, as the shutdown continued, it started to impact our production schedule. This is when remaining in full telework mode became unsustainable for us. I realized we needed to get back to work,” according to the program manager.
The managers of the production line initiated research to reopen in support of the warfighter, but there would be hurdles to overcome. They couldn’t just go back to work because they needed a mission essential designator which they didn’t have. A senior officer from one of their customers was needed to support pursuit of the mission-essential designator.
Once that issue was resolved, the team reviewed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NORTHCOM, NBVC, NAVWAR and NIWC Pacific to consolidate guidance into a single SOP document. They also ran it by three executive directors from three unique chains of command in order to receive approval to reopen the production line, instilling confidence the production line could reopen safely.
The production line is a mission essential activity in support of NECC and its subordinate commands to maintain fleet readiness, so though it might be operating at a lower capacity than before to follow social distancing guidance, personnel had to make sure the servicemember is still taken care of.
To mitigate any spread of the COVID-19 virus in their work center, decisions were made such as how much cleaning would be required, what shifts could be incorporated, when face coverings were required as well as temperature checks. Production line employees appreciated the temperature check at the door and there have been no complaints from any of the staff regarding the “new normal” to protect each other and their families at home.
The SOP developed by the NIWC Pacific embeds to NAVWAR Expeditionary support office and Port Hueneme production line helped create a standardized SOP for others to start from should they also need to develop a COVID-19 mitigation strategy to continue or return to the office or lab environment. Navy, NBVC, and other NAVWAR programs have reached out to inquire what it took to reopen the production lines and for a copy of the SOP.
Required face coverings for all personnel mitigates potential spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Leadership credits the NIWC Pacific embeds with setting a standard with the SOP and for coming up with a mitigation strategy that gives confidence not only to leadership, but the workers themselves, that they can reopen the facility safely.
The production line team BEFORE the Covid-19 shut down.