KITTERY, Maine — The impacts of sequestration have claimed the future of the USS Miami and continue to affect workers at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of the Navy announced that it would discontinue repair work on the nuclear submarine as a result of cost constraints associated with sequestration. The USS Miami was badly damaged in an arson fire last May.
More than 1,000 shipyard employees still face at least six furlough days through the end of September as part of cost-saving measures associated with sequestration. That number was recently reduced from 11.
In a prepared statement, Rear Adm. Rick Breckenridge said avoiding the cost of repairs to the submarine will open up funds to support other vital maintenance efforts.
“The decision to inactivate Miami is a difficult one, taken after hard analysis and not made lightly,” Breckenridge said. “We will lose the five deployments that Miami would have provided over the remaining 10 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.”
Paul O’Connor, president of the Metal Trades Union at the shipyard, said the whole situation is “painful.”
“That is one less nuclear submarine in the fleet to meet the needs of our national security and that’s on the back of sequestration,” O’Connor said.
The effort so far by shipyard workers and workers from Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., to repair the submarine has been “monumental,” he said.
Between $150 million and $200 million had been allocated for repair work, and the lion’s share of that money has already been spent, he said.
According to the Navy, recently completed inspections on the submarine revealed that due to environmentally assisted cracking in the steel piping and fasteners used in the air, hydraulic and cooling water systems on the submarine, a significant number of components in the torpedo room and auxiliary machinery room would require replacement, representing an additional cost.
“The increased cost estimate and scope means that without $390 million in additional funding in FY 2014, funding the repairs would require cancellation of dozens of remaining availabilities on surface ships and submarines,” Breckenridge said. “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.”
Now shipyard workers will shift their work to inactivation, which O’Connor said is roughly the same amount of work they would have performed to return the ship to the fleet.
“At this point, we expect that there will be no adverse impact on our ability to meet future schedules of dockings,” O’Connor said.
But O’Connor is concerned about the further impacts sequestration could have in the coming years if it is not addressed.
He blames House Republicans for not allowing a bill to come forward to end sequestration without any amendments.
He said although only a relatively small number of shipyard workers are currently furloughed, everyone’s head is back on the “chopping block” as of Oct. 1 when the next fiscal year begins. Sequestration is a 10-year program.
“How much money do we have to waste unnecessarily … before the Republican House puts a bill on the floor, a stand-alone bill with no amendments, that ends sequestration? How much pain must we endure?” O’Connor asked.
Members of the state’s congressional delegation also spoke out against the Navy’s decision.
firstname.lastname@example.org“I’m very concerned that the reckless, across-the-board cuts known as sequestration played such a large role in the decision to stop repairs on Miami,” U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., said. “Instead of slashing Department of Defense investments and domestic programs, Congress should replace sequestration with a responsible budget that reduces the deficit, strengthens our national security and domestic programs, and creates jobs.”
U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Angus King, Independent-Maine, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, issued a statement expressing disappointment in the Navy’s decision and said they will continue to work together toward a responsible budget solution that replaces sequestration.