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Navy to Scrap Painter-Torched Sub

Friday, August 9, 2013

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Unable to foot a $700 million repair bill, the U.S. Navy has decided to scrap a nuclear submarine severely damaged last year in a blaze set by a painter.

The USS Miami will be the second Navy ship lost this year.

The sub had been scheduled for repairs after the May 2012 fire set by Casey James Fury. The Navy initially estimated the damage from the fire at $450 million.

Now, however, the Navy says that repairs to the Los Angeles-class submarine (SSN 755) could cost hundreds of millions of dollars more—a tab the service says it cannot afford in these budget-cutting times.

USS Miami
U.S. Navy / Jim Cleveland

After arson damaged the USS Miami nuclear submarine, the Navy announced plans to repair it. Those plans have now been scrapped because of budget cuts and a higher repair estimate.

Fury, a civilian painter and abrasive blaster, admitted to starting a fire on the nuclear sub in May 2012 while it was in dry dock at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, ME. The fire injured seven people.

In March, Fury was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $400 million in restitution.

Financial Constraints Blamed

Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge, the Navy's director of the Undersea Warfare Division, announced the decision to scrap the ship in a Navy Live blog posted Wednesday (Aug. 7).

"Under the financial constraints imposed by sequestration, we simply cannot afford to undertake the repairs," he wrote. "Sequestration effects this past year (work force limitations) coupled with the increased scope of work have combined to raise the estimated cost of repairs from $450M to $700M."

Despite the decision to inactivate Miami, Breckenridge said the "demand signal for attack submarines is as strong as ever" and that combat commanders worldwide were requesting undersea forces in "nearly double the quantity that the Navy is able to provide."

Navy budget cuts
U.S. Navy / Lt. Scott Miller

The USS Miami, shown here in 2007, had 10 remaining years of service life. The Navy says that, due to budget constraints, it "simply cannot afford to undertake the repairs."

According to Breckenridge, the scope of repair work for Miami was four times greater than any previous submarine repair and 50 percent larger than an engineered overhaul, which he said is the largest and most demanding type of submarine maintenance.

"In times of prosperity with more flexible defense spending, sufficient resources would be available for our industrial base partners to rise and tackle this formidable challenge. However, sequestration pressures remove the needed foundation of stability to support an endeavor of this magnitude," Breckenridge said.

In addition to limited funds, Breckenridge said that inspections revealed that high temperatures and the corrosive atmosphere had caused "Environmentally Assisted Cracking" in steel piping and fasteners used in the air, hydraulic and cooling water systems. The Navy was not fully aware of the scope and cost of the cracking until May.

Miami had 10 years remaining of her planned service life, including five deployments.

Multiple FIres on Sub

It took 12 hours and more than 100 firefighters to combat the blaze that Fury started. He told authorities that he set the fire because he was suffereing from an anxiety attack and wanted to leave work.

At the time of the fire, Miami had been in the port since March 2012 for maintenance and upgrading.

The fire damaged the torpedo room and the forward compartment, which includes crew living, command and control spaces. The sub's reactor wasn't  operating at the time, and no torpedoes or other weapons were on board.

Fury had been taking prescription medications, including Celexa for anxiety and depression, Klonopin for anxiety, Ambien for sleep, and Zyrtec for allergies, according to the criminal complaint. He started to become anxious and wanted to leave work after texting his ex-girlfriend in an attempt to convince her to stop seeing someone else.

Casey James Fury

Casey James Fury was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $400 million in restitution after he admitted to starting the fire on the sub.

He then set alcohol wipes on a piece of wood, covered them with a piece of plywood, and used a lighter to set them on fire.

Just days after Fury was sentenced for the fire, fire crews responded to an unrelated blaze on the sub, caused by abrasive blasting.

Senators Express Disappointment

In a joint statement on Wednesday, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Angus King (I-ME), said they were disappointed in the Navy's decision to scrap the Miami.

"Inactivating the Miami will mean a loss to our nuclear submarine fleet—yet another unfortunate consequence of the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration. We will continue to work together to find a responsible budget solution that replaces sequestration," the statement said.

Miami is the second warship that the Navy has lost in 2013. In January, the USS Guardian, a $277 million minesweeper, ran aground on the environmentally sensitive Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines. The Navy opted to dismantle the 224-foot, wood-and-fiberglass-hulled ship, calling the vessel a loss.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Criminal acts; Economy; Fire; Laws and litigation; Painters; Program/Project Management; Shipyards; U.S. Navy

Comment from Mike McCloud, (8/9/2013, 7:44 AM)

How was a fire started by sandblasting?

Comment from Jim Johnson, (8/9/2013, 12:14 PM)

These submarines are a vital part of the defense of our country and if we do not adequately defend our country we will not have one. We have a President who has seen fit to spend over 2.4 Billion Dollars on vacations, yet we cannot afford 450 million to protect our country? It is true this same president instructed government agencies to make sequestration hurt as much as possible, but is it right he should sacrifice our defense just to support his statements? The main purpose of the federal government, the reason the 13 colonies authorized its formation, is to protect our country, not take vacations. Am I the only one who sees a problem here?

Comment from Car F., (8/9/2013, 2:41 PM)

Best protection for a country is to make peace, obey international law, stop behaving like a world-cop and get treatment for the continuos Messianic delusions that forces the country to keep 748 military bases in foreing soil, for what?

Comment from Jeffrey Stewart, (8/9/2013, 5:00 PM)

$500M for Palestinians by executive order last Friday, but none for US Defense. To Car F, I bet you believe as long as we are nice to our enemies they will be nice to us? That works real well. Ever heard of Benghazi?

Comment from peter gibson, (8/11/2013, 2:34 PM)

Never mind all that. How did a nut like this get clearance to work on Das Boot.

Comment from James Albertoni, (8/12/2013, 10:28 AM)

Mike M, the fire was arson. It was just happened to be set by the painter.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (8/12/2013, 11:29 AM)

James, I believe Mike was asking about the 2nd fire... 2nd paragraph just below the picture of Mr. Fury.

Comment from Mike McCloud, (8/13/2013, 7:53 AM)

Yah, the second fire was probably started by an abrasive "blaster", because abrasive blasters are all bad guys. Jim J... I couldn't say it better! Lets get back to the days of Ronald Reagan.

Comment from Jim Johnson, (8/15/2013, 1:34 AM)

Mike - I agree with the meantime there is an old adage stating The best defense is having the strongest offense! With the strongest offense you never have to be on the defensive. That does not mean we should be the worlds policeman, I agree with that. We do need foreign bases, but probably far fewer than we have. Instead of being an illegal gun running operation in Libya we should be getting out of there. Instead of supporting the terrorist organization of the muslim brotherhood we should get out of Egypt too. What we should be doing is completing the Keystone pipeline and developing our own petroleum reserves and finally get this country energy independence. Somehow giving away billions of dollars to a terrorist organization while depleting our own navy makes no sense at all, but instead sounds detrimental to our own safety and stability.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (8/15/2013, 9:22 AM)

Jeffrey, I don't know how you can claim "None for US Defense" - the DoD 2013 budget is more than a thousand times bigger than the $500MM number you give for Palestine. The defense budget (even post sequestration) just insanely huge. I agree the USA should have a strong military, but even using inflation-adjusted dollars, we're spending 50% more than we did at the height of the Cold War. We're spending more than China, Russia, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Saudia Arabia (and more) combined.

Comment from Jim Johnson, (8/16/2013, 11:12 AM)

Tom, I have no idea what those countries spend on their military but I do know the Chinese Navy now has approximately three times the number of vessels on the sea than our navy does. I agree there is a lot of wasteful spending, but that is true of every government agency, both federal and state. Look at the waste and fraud in Medicare, Food stamps and even the Farm Bill. If one reads the US Constitution, and it is worthy of re-reading from time to time, there is just ONE Guarantee within it. It says the federal government guarantees to the individual states to secure our borders from invasion. That is a pretty strong statement, but it is also the primary reason the federal government was formed. You are in Texas - Is that guarantee being upheld? I rather doubt it as your southern border is invaded by illegals every day.

Comment from William Gusnard, (8/16/2013, 1:18 PM)

What everybody is saying has some sense - for the most part. I have done government work in the past and had clearances to work in top-secret government buildings, over-seas embassys, DoE work, nuclear facilities, and military bases. I have had very high level clearance and it required constant monitoring of me, what I did, and who I hung around with. Anybody who does govenrment work needs high clearance to do the work - I do not care if you are painting a sub or coatings at a nuclear site. To me, there is one way to stop this junk - this is treason so try him for treason. Treason is punishable by death. Let's stop being wimps and hold people accountable for their own actions. My family has fought in every major conflict from the Revolutionary War till Korea. They fought to found this county, to keep it whole, and stop the German lunacy in WWII. This is why we have foreign bases and try to act as the world's policemen (which I am not totally for - but it is necessary from time to time). We need the strong defense but we can save money in other ways - like we are against cigarettes but we supsidize the tobacco farmers - that makes lots of sense. Stron Military - and try traitors as traitors.

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