$71M Spent Before Navy Scrapped Sub


The U.S. Navy spent $71 million trying to repair a nuclear sub torched by a painter before deciding to scrap the vessel, a new report states.

The USS Miami Los Angeles-class submarine (SSN 755) was heavily damaged when a civilian painter started a fire while the sub was in dry dock in May 2012; a second, accidental fire in March 2013 added to the damage.

The $71 million price tag mainly included damage assessment, planning, repair materials and a few initial repair efforts, as well as $7 million for cleanup, according to figures provided at the request of The Associated Press.

Extra $250M in Repairs

The Navy planned to repair the submarine and return it to duty, but after inspections revealed that high temperatures and the corrosive atmosphere had caused "Environmentally Assisted Cracking" in steel piping and fasteners, the Navy announced in August that it would scrap the ship.

The newly discovered damage drove the estimated repair cost from $450 million to $700 million—a bill that the Navy said it could not afford in these budget-cutting times.

"Under the financial constraints imposed by sequestration, we simply cannot afford to undertake the repairs," Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge, the Navy's director of the Undersea Warfare Division, said in August.

According to Breckenridge, the repair work for the ship was four times greater than any previous submarine repair and 50 percent larger than an engineered overhaul.

"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.

Unpredictable Budget 'Waste'

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

Navy budget cuts
U.S. Navy photo

The USS Miami, shown here in Florida's Everglades, will be sent to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard where it will be cut up for scrap. The sub had 10 years of remaining service life.

The submarine is still in dry dock, and shipyard workers are removing fuel from the nuclear reactor and preparing the sub to be towed to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington where it will be cut up for scrap. Costs related to inactivation are estimated at around $54 million, the Navy said, according to the AP report.

According to the AP, the Naval Sea Systems Command said the $71 million spent "wasn't a total loss," because part of that expenditure supported the inactivation and required repairs to send the ship to Washington.

Still, criticism greeted the news of the tab.

"The figure illustrates the kind of waste that results when unpredictable budget pressures force the military services to change their plans," Loren Thompson, defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, told the AP.

Paul O'Connor, president of the Metal Trades Council, told the AP, "The waste is Congress not being clear in the budget. We haven't had a working budget for years. Every year is a continuing resolution from the previous year. It's no way to run a business. It's no way to defend our nation."

Twice-Torched Sub

Casey James Fury, a civilian painter and abrasive blaster, admitted to starting a fire on the sub in May 2012 while it was in dry dock at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, ME. The fire injured seven people and took more than 100 firefighters 12 hours to battle.

On Nov. 8, 2012, Fury pleaded guilty to two counts of arson as part of a plea agreement. In March, he was sentenced to 17 years in prison and $400 million in restitution.

Casey James Fury

Casey James Fury was sentenced to 17 years in prison after pleaded guilty to two counts of arson. Fury started a fire on the USS Miami that injured seven people and heavily damaged the submarine.

Fury told authorities that he set the fire because he was suffering from an anxiety attack and wanted to leave work after texting his ex-girlfriend in an attempt to convince her to stop seeing someone else.

He set alcohol wipes on a piece of wood, covered them with a piece of plywood, and set them on fire with a lighter. 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 a cocktail of prescription medications, including Celexa for anxiety and depression, Klonopin for anxiety, Ambien for sleep and Zyrtec for allergies, according to the criminal complaint.

Just days after Fury was sentenced, fire crews responded to another, unrelated blaze on the Miami, caused by abrasive blasting. A shipyard spokesperson said that the sandblasting operations in the control area of the sub's forward compartment had produced some sand grit that damaged a temporary light fixture, igniting a fire.


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

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.