U.S. Navy to Scrap Submarine Badly Damaged by an Arsonist

Mike O'Brien

As maintenance funds are being slashed by mandated budget cuts, the U.S. Navy has decided it cannot afford to repair the nuclear attack submarine Miami, which was severely damaged last year by an arsonist.

The Navy last year estimated that repairs to the Los Angeles-class submarine would cost $450 million, and at least $94 million has already been spent to plan the repair work.

The estimated repair costs have risen considerably since then the initial assessment and following a "comprehensive damage assessment."

Rear Adm. Rick Breckenridge, the Navy’s director of undersea warfare at the Pentagon, acknowledged the decision will sadden and anger many.

He said: "The decision to inactivate Miami is a difficult one, taken after hard analysis and not made lightly.

"We will lose the five deployments that Miami would have provided over the remaining ten years of her planned service life, but in exchange for avoiding the cost of repairs, we will open up funds to support other vital maintenance efforts, improving the wholeness and readiness of the fleet."

Mr. Breckenridge added: "The increased cost estimate and scope means that without $390 million in additional funding in fiscal 2014, funding the repairs would require cancellation of dozens of remaining availabilities on surface ships and submarines.

"The Navy and the nation simply cannot afford to weaken other fleet readiness in the way that would be required to afford repairs to Miami."

The sub has suffered "environmentally-assisted" cracking in the steel piping and fasteners used in the air, hydraulic and cooling water systems.

The Miami was devastated by a fire that broke out late in the work day on May 23, 2012, while the submarine was in drydock at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.

Casey James Fury, 24, a civilian painter and sand blaster at the shipyard, was arrested after a three-week investigation and charged with arson.

He pleaded guilty in November and was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison.

He set the May 23 fire, he told authorities, because he was having an anxiety attack, wanted to leave work and had already used up his sick leave.

The blaze burned for about 12 hours inside, damaging or destroying the submarine's control room, combat systems and torpedo room.