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Nuclear sub torched by lazy shipyard worker decommissioned

The U.S.S. Miami in better days (file photo)
The U.S.S. Miami in better days (file photo)
U.S. govt.

Portsmouth - The U.S.S. Miami was formally decommissioned Friday in a ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard where the submarine was torched a couple years ago.

The Los Angeles class nuclear submarine, was not sunk by enemy fire. The submarine was destroyed by an American while safely docked in U.S. waters where it was being refitted for many more years of active duty.

After 23 years of service that includes launching missiles during the Iraq war it took only a lazy shipyard worker to inflict $700 million of damage to the submarine and prevent it from ever being placed into service again.

Casey James Fury, then 25, wanted to leave work early and set some rags on fire aboard the USS Miami where he was working. The fire spread through the sub's living quarters and the control center but did not damage the vessel's nuclear reactor.

Total damages, above and beyond the loss of the nuclear submarine, includes $71 million spent on initial clean up operations and repairs and about $54 million that it will cost taxpayers to scrap the sub.Fury set the fire on May 23, 2012 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery. The submarine was being overhauled for duty when the lazy laborer torched it thinking the diversion would allow him to leave work early.

The Navy first intended to repair the sub at a cost of about $450 million, however repair estimates soared to more than $700 million which prompted the Navy to announce plans to scrap the vessel. About a year ago Fury was sentenced to 205 months in prison and ordered to pay $400 million in restitution by a judge who said he weighed his sentencing on Fury's lack of criminal record and the extent of damages. By all accounts the shipyard worker is unlikely to pay the $450 million fine.

Loren Thompson, defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, blamed the decision to scrap the USS Miami on “unpredictable budget pressures” signed off on by Pres. Barack Obama."The figure illustrates the kind of waste that results when unpredictable budget pressures force the military services to change their plans," Thompson said Friday.

The Democrat-led U.S. Senate has passed only one budget in five years and Mr. Obama has recently ordered significant cutbacks in military spending.

Paul O'Connor, president of the Metal Trades Council, blamed Congress and the federal sequestration cuts for not having $700 million to fix the boat. The Navy wanted to repair the sub, he said, but just couldn't afford it. "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," O'Connor said Friday.

On the other hand, Navy officials decided that the $700 million repair cost to taxpayers would not be worth extending service of the sub for another 10 years, which is when it was originally scheduled to be decommissioned from active service.

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