PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) — Mike Petters, the new head of shipbuilding for Northrop Grumman, says it's not his job to shut down facilities or lay off workers at yards in Mississippi, Louisiana and Virginia.
Petters said Wednesday during an appearance on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that his job is to bring all the company's shipyards — Newport News, Va.; Pascagoula and Gulfport in Mississippi; Avondale and Tallulah in Louisiana — into one division.
Petters, 48, is a corporate vice president with Northrop Grumman and now president of Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, the world's leading military shipbuilder.
Petters, in a civic club speech in Pascagoula, did not say whether Mississippi or Virginia would be the headquarters for the new division.
Petters said the company is aware that the shipyards are the biggest private employer in the three states.
''I have not been sent here to close anything or lay anyone off,'' he said. ''In three years, if the shipyards operate independent of each other, I have not done what (Northrop Grumman) told me to do.''
Northrop Grumman announced Jan. 14 that it was consolidating its shipbuilding operations.
As part of the consolidation, longtime Northrop Grumman Ship Systems President Philip Teel will take over the company's Mission Systems division on April 1. Teel's background is in missile systems.
Petters said Northrop Grumman wants better efficiency from its shipyards.
''We are forming a new sector,'' he said. ''We want to find the most efficient way to employ the skills and talents of our 40,000 workers in the service of this country.''
While the Navy is looking at developing a more nuclear-powered fleet, Petters said after the meeting that nuclear re-certification for the Ingalls shipyard is not in the near future.
Ingalls was nuclear certified when it built nuclear-powered submarines.
Petters said the Navy is unsure about how it will proceed with its program for nuclear-powered ships, even though Congress has passed legislation calling for the Navy to consider expanding it.
Petters said Wednesday that at this point the company's nuclear capacity at Newport News is sufficient for the ships that Northrop Grumman is building. He said there could be opportunities for the Newport News shipyard and Ingalls shipyard to work together on nuclear-powered ships.