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SSN 755 Miami

On 23 May 2012, a worker hatched a plan to go home early by lighting a small fire aboard the attack submarine USS Miami as it sat pierside at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine. Instead, the USS Miami experienced a serious fire in the ship's forward compartment. The ship's reactor had been shut down for over 2 months prior to the incident and remained in a safe and stable condition throughout the event. The nuclear propulsion spaces were physically isolated from the Forward Compartment early during initial response. There were also no weapons on board in the torpedo room. The fire and subsequent damage was limited to the forward compartment spaces only which includes crew living and command and control spaces. The fire spread to spaces within the submarine that were difficult to access and those confined spaces made it challenging for fire-fighters to combat the blaze. Seven people were injured during the fire-fighting response, but their injuries were minor in nature. A full investigation began immediately to determine the cause of the fire.

The Navy completed in July 2013 a comprehensive assessment of the extensive fire damage, finding that the submarine was fully repairable from a technical perspective; however, inspections have revealed a greater scope of work than originally envisioned. Under the financial constraints imposed by sequestration, Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge Director, Undersea Warfare, OPNAV N97 decided the Navy cannot afford to undertake the repairs. Sequestration effects this past year (work force limitations) coupled with the increased scope of work had combined to raise the estimated cost of repairs from $450M to $700M. Given the fiscal challenge facing the country and the strain that such an investment would make on the maintenance for the remainder of the fleet, the responsible decision for the Navy is to inactivate Miami.

The Navy recognized from the start that repairs to Miami presented a significant technical challenge. The type of damage was unlike anything seen in recent memory, meaning the effort contained plenty of unknowns. Moreover, the planners had to recreate drawings for a ship built with different construction methods from those used today. Above and beyond the nature of the work, the pure size of the job is staggering: the anticipated scope of work is four times greater than any previous submarine repair due to damage and 50 percent larger even than that of an Engineered Overhaul, the largest and most demanding maintenance availability performed on a submarine. 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.

Unfortunately, the initial damage assessment and repair estimate came around the same time as the commencement of sequestration spending cuts. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard began Fiscal Year 2013 with a workforce tasked to full capacity; these cuts required the shipyard to implement a hiring freeze and to sharply restrict overtime, limiting their available workforce and requiring the damage assessment and planning to be shifted to Electric Boat. Shifting the work to the world’s finest private shipbuilder is not without a cost impact.

Further, damage inspections revealed that the high temperature environment and corrosive atmosphere present during the prolonged fire caused a phenomenon known as Environmentally Assisted Cracking to occur in steel piping and fasteners used in the air, hydraulic and cooling water systems. Due to the nature of the cracking, a significant number of components in the torpedo room and auxiliary machine room would require replacement. Although the Navy was aware of the possibility of Environmentally Assisted Cracking, it was not until May 2013 that the full scope and cost was understood.

Since the initial cost estimates were made, the Navy analyzed other recent major submarine damage repair efforts to gain insight into the accuracy of initial rough order of magnitude repair cost estimates. Data gathered from repairs to USS Hartford and USS Montpelier indicate that the final cost typically falls between 140 to 150 percent of the initial repair rough order of magnitude estimate due to unforeseen repair issues/complications. Therefore it was appropriate to apply this cost planning insight to Miami and establish responsible contingency reserves.

In addition to scope growth, this contingency funding would cover other cost growth, whether unanticipated or expected but unable to be accurately priced. For example, a known impact that cannot be accurately priced is the anticipated FY 2014 sequestration impact at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, which will likely diminish the shipyard’s ability to provide Lead Yard Services (cranes, ventilation, electricity, service air, etc.) for Electric Boat’s execution of production work.

The combination of these effects — sequestration effects in 2013 and the expanded scope of work — resulted in two adverse consequences: the bulk of the repair effort was pushed from FY 2013 to FY 2014, and the cost estimate increased from $450M to $700M.

Sequestration could levy a devastating burden on FY 2014 maintenance spending, causing the potential cancellation of up to 60 percent of scheduled availabilities. The shift in Miami repairs and the increased cost estimate means that without $390M in additional resources in FY 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 Navy is a capital-intensive force that requires funding to operate forward. Sequestration limits our ability to responsibly cashflow maintenance, planning, and operations to maintain the necessary level of readiness. The decision to inactivate Miami was a difficult one, taken after hard analysis and not made lightly. The Navy would 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, the Navy opened up funds to support other vital fleet maintenance efforts, improving the wholeness and readiness of the force. Inactivation was the right choice for the Navy and the nation during a very unique time period in the nation’s history.

The contract to build SSN 755 was awarded on 11/28/1983 and her keel was laid on 10/24/1986. She was launched on 11/12/1988 and she was commissioned on 06/30/1990. The Miami took part in a test firing of a Tomahawk cruise missile on September 18, 2002 while off the coast of Florida in the Jacksonville area. Miami was America's first nuclear-powered submarine to transit the Suez Canal, an honor earned during her second deployment in 1994.

In the late 1990s, Miami launched Tomahawk cruise missile strikes during Operation Desert Fox in Iraq and Operation Allied Force in Kosovo. She earned the nickname "Big Gun" after becoming the first submarine since World War II to fire ordnance during combat operations in two different theaters.

The Navy formally decommissioned Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Miami (SSN 755), 28 March 2014, during an indoor ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.

A suspected shipyard worker confessed and pleaded guilty to two counts of arson. This shipyard worker set fire to rags aboard the USS Miami nuclear submarine because he was allegedly fighting depression. In March 2013, the former Portsmouth Naval Shipyard employee was sentenced to 17 years confinement followed by five years of supervised release for deliberately setting the fire that damaged the nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Miami. Casey Fury was also ordered to pay $400 million in restitution to the Navy. The Navy reversed its decision to repair the sub when cost estimates rose to $700 million. In November 2012, Fury pleaded guilty to two charges of arson within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

The First Miami

USS Miami, a 730-ton "double-ender" side-wheel gunboat, was built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania. Commissioned on 29 January 1862, she was sent to the Gulf of Mexico to participate in the campaign against New Orleans. Once that city was captured, Miami operated in the Gulf and the Mississippi river until September 1862, when she was transferred to the Atlantic.

During the next two years, Miami was employed in the North Carolina Sounds area, participating in a number of actions. On 19 April 1864, she engaged the Confederate ironclad Albemarle, a battle that resulted in the death of Miami's Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Charles W. Flusser. Later in 1864, she shifted to the James River, Virginia, and spent the remainder of the Civil War in that area. USS Miami was decommissioned in May 1865 and sold the following August. From then until 1869, she was employed as a commercial vessel.

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Page last modified: 12-12-2019 19:10:25 ZULU