Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is exempt from a government-wide hiring freeze imposed by the Trump administration, federal officials announced Thursday.

On Jan. 23, President Trump issued a memorandum ordering a hiring freeze at “all executive departments and agencies regardless of the sources of their operational and programmatic funding.” While military personnel were exempt from the freeze, it was unclear whether that exemption extended to civilian workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery as well as other public shipyards and defense facilities nationwide.

In response, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard reportedly sent letters to several new hires indefinitely delaying their start dates.

On Wednesday, the Department of Defense issued a follow-up memo saying that shipyard workers involved in the maintenance of ships would also be exempt. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, said Thursday that Defense Department officials confirmed the exemption for the Kittery facility.

“I’m very pleased that the Department of Defense heeded our call to exempt shipyard employees from President Trump’s hiring freeze so that the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and all of our nation’s public shipyards, can continue to fulfill their missions,” Shaheen said in a statement. “The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, along with the civilian employees who work there, are integral to our national security. Today’s announcement allows the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to continue local hiring to ensure that critical maintenance requirements are met so our submarine fleet can address security challenges around the world.”

Senators representing states with naval shipyards – including Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, as well as Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire – had written a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis last week requesting an exemption for shipyard workers. In their letter, the senators noted that both the president and the Navy have called for increasing the size of the Navy’s fleet from roughly 280 ships to 350 or more ships.

“The public shipyards are currently hiring hundreds of new employees who must complete years of training before they are able to maintain and repair naval vessels,” the letter said. “A civilian hiring freeze at naval shipyards will severely impact this training pipeline resulting in maintenance delays and higher costs. The Presidential Memorandum states that the freeze is not intended to impact national security, however, freezing the hiring of civilian employees who will support critical fleet maintenance will directly undermine national security.”

One of four public Navy shipyards nationwide, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is responsible for repairs and maintenance of the Navy’s Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered submarines. The shipyard employed more than 6,000 workers last year, the vast majority of them civilians.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

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