In August, Congress approved a $738 billion budget for the Defense Department for fiscal 2020. A small chunk of that amount will go to U.S. shipyards who are awarded military contracts to build for the Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, Army and even the Air Force.

Some of these contracts may seem small to people, but they help many second-tier boatyards keep the doors open and workers busy. Often, its the military contracts that enable shipyards to bid on commercial work.

Shipyards must develop a certain expertise in order to successfully build for the military. They must learn how to adhere to military construction guidelines and specifications laid out by the government.

“If you can’t perform on a military contract by delivering a product that meets the requirements and technical specifications, in the time frame in which it was promised and at the price that you agreed to do the work for, you won’t last long in the defense business,” Josh Pruzek of Vigor Industrial told WorkBoat for the September issue cover story due out later this month.

As these yards stress, military building standards, along with the government’s bidding process, can be very different from commercial work.

As VT Halter Marine president and CEO Ron Baczkowski told Senior Editor Ken Hocke, the “U.S. government is the most technically sophisticated customer we design and build for. Therefore, they have the highest standards for quality in the industry.” (Baczkowski is scheduled to speak at the International WorkBoat Show on Dec. 5.)

Government inspectors, Baczkowski pointed out, verify the quality of every component used in construction. They inspect every cut, fit, weld, lift, move, abrasive blast, paint application, equipment installation, equipment or system start-up and commissioning before a vessel is ever allowed to go to sea, he said.

But for those that can meet these rigorous standards and elevated levels of technical analysis and performance, the rewards can be big. Just ask Vigor, VT Halter, Swiftships, Fincantieri Marinette Marine, Austal, Bollinger, Eastern, MetalCraft Marine, Safe Boats, Metal Shark and the list goes on.

The Navy says it uses more than 30 shipyards to build its ships and boats, and more are welcome.

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.