August 7, 2013

Navy abandons plan to fix nuclear sub burned in Maine

The repairs were expected to cost $450 million, after a man set fire to the sub at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 2012.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

and Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Smoke rises from a Portsmouth Naval Shipyard dry dock as fire crews respond May 23, 2012 to a fire on the USS Miami nuclear submarine at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on an island in Kittery in 2012.

AP photo

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This 2004 file photo shows the USS Miami nuclear submarine in Groton, Conn. The Navy has cancelled plans to repair the submarine, damaged in a May 2012 arson at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, in light of higher-than-anticipated costs and federal budget cuts, officials announced Tuesday.

AP photo

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O’Connor, whose union represents about 2,500 workers, laid blame for the Navy’s decision on sequestration, which he said has forced union workers to miss one day’s pay each week. He said the furloughs have pushed families who live on tight budgets to the edge.

“We are only a few months into sequestration and look at the damage it has already caused,” he said. “We are losing a significant military asset because of sequestration.”

O’Connor said he worries about the future, after the Miami is retired. His union would have been responsible for future overhauls of the submarine.

“They are our boats when they come into this shipyard,” he said. “We are feeling a great sense of loss.”

Arvard Worster, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 2024, which represents about 600 civilian employees at the shipyard, said the union’s workers probably won’t see a smaller workload because of the Navy’s decision, but removing the USS Miami from the fleet still hurts.

“We have a lot of pride in the work that we do and we have a good track record,” said Worster, whose union includes administrative assistants, security police, computer operators and secretaries. “(The arson) that happened caught us off guard.”

The four senators from Maine and New Hampshire said in their statement that they recognized the repair costs were rising, but they were disappointed, especially considering the role that the budget cuts apparently played in the decision.

“Inactivating the Miami will mean a loss to our nuclear submarine fleet,” said Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and New Hampshire Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte. “We will continue to work together to find a responsible budget solution that replaces sequestration.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, a Democrat whose district includes Kittery, called it “outrageous” that the sub won’t be put back into service because of sequestration.

Pingree voted against the law that set up the budget cuts, which were designed to be so austere that Congress and the White House would find an alternative way to reduce the federal deficit. Absent congressional action, the cuts took effect in March.

“I am deeply disappointed by the decision not to repair the Miami,” Pingree said in a prepared statement. “It is shameful that this ill-conceived law has contributed to the loss of work at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.”

Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of MaineToday Media, which publishes the Portland Press Herald.

The initial restoration effort involved damage assessment, planning and material procurement, and fabrication and installation. About 300 Electric Boat workers were going to be involved in the project.
“We were just starting to ramp up to do more extensive repairs,” Electric Boat spokesman Bob Hamilton said Tuesday night.

Commissioned in June 1990, the Miami is 362 feet long and 33 feet wide at its breadth, and carried a crew of 133 enlisted personnel and officers. It was built in Groton, Conn.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at kmiller@mainetoday.com

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or atdhoey@pressherald.com

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