PORTSMOUTH Hampton Roads' private shipyards could get hit hard in months ahead, with impending Navy budget cuts just around the corner.

The Virginia Ship Repair Association says its' 250 member companies employ more than 40,000 people and generate more than $1.8 billion a year in worker payroll. All of that could be jeopardy now that the Navy has announced it intends to cancel $271 million worth of ship repairs over the next eight months.

That reduction will mean that eight local destroyers, an amphibious assault ship and an aircraft carrier will go unrepaired.

The moves have gotten the attention of House Armed Services committee member J. Randy Forbes (R-Va., 4th District). On Thursday, Forbes began a series of two-day visits to six Hampton Roads shipyards, to gauge reaction to the news.

Forbes visited BAE Systems and Earl Industries and says what he heard was worrisome.

'One of the things these companies are telling us is that as soon as next week they could have a considerable number of notices going out under the Warren Act advising people their jobs could be at stake,' said Forbes.

'Also realize it's not just the employees at these yards, but it's all the subcontractors who work for them. This has repercussions across the economy because it impacts car sales, home sales, retail. It impacts people at beauty salons, restaurants, all across the economy in Hampton Roads and Virginia,' Forbes said.

Tomorrow, Forbes will go to Newport News Shipbuilding, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Colonna's Shipyard, and MHI Ship Repair.

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