How to Scrap a U.S. Submarine, In 2 Easy Steps

One disgruntled contractor has cost the Navy over $400 million for damage to a nuclear submarine — or at least that's what he “had” cost the Navy until federal budget sequestration forced the submarine to be scrapped entirely due to a lack of funds. Despite an increased demand for nuclear submarines, this isolated incident has only emphasized the frailty of government budgets in a post-sequester America. The bottom line is the sequester has pushed budgets to the brink of wasting resources, and it only takes one person to trip that brink.

The specific incident occurred in May 2012 at a submarine base in Groton, Connecticut, when contractor Casey James Fury, who was hired to paint and sandblast parts of the USS Miami, decided that he didn’t want to be at work and decided to leave early by creating a small fire. Casey attributed his decision to anxiety caused by his ex-girlfriend.

The fire damaged living quarters, the control room, and the torpedo room of the Miami. It took over 100 firefighters to put out the traveling blaze. All weapons had been removed for the overhaul process, which is why the Miami was in port, and the nuclear reactor was not running, meaning no catastrophic weapons-based disaster occurred. Still, when all was said and done, the cost of the damage came to about $400 million. Seems like quite a bit of money ... but then again, you probably want to make sure a nuclear submarine is in tip-top shape.

In addition to a sentence of 17 years in prison, Fury had been ordered to pay $400 million in restitution, money a contractor with ex-girlfriend problems doesn’t have. Naturally, the Navy would have to bite the bullet and repair the critical submarine.

Submarines are considered critical. Numerous Navy officials have pinpointed intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities as critical to the future of international security. More submarines would mean more oceanic coverage and defensive/offensive capabilities. The Miami would have to be fixed.

This is where sequestration comes in.

Due to sequestration, there is literally not enough money for the U.S. Navy (or Mr. Fury) to make repairs for the strategically essential submarine. The original purpose of overhauling the submarine was to cost-effectively get another 10 years of service out of the Miami starting in 2015.

Taking a step back, it seems extraordinary that one disgruntled contractor could start a small fire and force the U.S. Navy to scrap a nuclear submarine. While the arson incident is both isolated and rare, the subsequent scrapping is unheard of. It’s not even a case of money that could be better elsewhere, because there's nothing that can really serve the purpose of a submarine for less money. No numbers have been released concerning the amount of money and jobs that would have been created by the overhaul of the Miami were it not for ex-girlfriend problems —

Many Americans have seen the effects of the sequester in the forms of family and friends losing hours in government and military positions, but the Miami incident shows how bad the program can be on a large scale. Granted, this particular incident was started by one man. Too bad it will take more than one man to undo all the damage.