Navy official sees small immediate impact from USS Miami fire

In the near term at least, the loss of the USS Miami will not greatly impact the Navy’s overall strategy, Under Secretary of the Navy Robert O. Work said Wednesday in a phone interview with The Day.

Down the road, if the submarine is scrapped or still out of service for repairs from the May 23 fire, the deployment schedules for other submarines may change, Work added.

“We have a requirement for 48 attack boats, and we have more than that right now,” he said.

The under secretary did not name a deadline for when a decision will be reached on the sub’s fate. The engineers and investigators were told to take the time they need, Work said.

“We will never, ever put sailors at risk,” he said.

The Miami (SSN 755) was in a dry dock at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for maintenance and upgrades when a fire started in a vacuum cleaner at 5:41 p.m. May 23. The fire on board burned until 3:30 a.m. the next day and caused an estimated $440 million in damages to the Groton-based sub.

“Right now, the going assumption is, we’ll repair the boat,” Work said. “But we’re right in the early stages of the damage assessment.”

Navy engineers are analyzing the hull to see if the fire compromised its integrity. Work said the exhaustive engineering assessment will ensure the Navy knows everything the fire did to the hull. The boat needs to be cleaned out, he said, “then we’ll make a detailed cost estimate and work with Congress to determine the best way forward.”

All of these issues, Work said, will be debated over the course of the next year. The Navy’s senior leaders will make a recommendation to the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Work was in the area Wednesday to host a two-day forum on global trends at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I., the capstone academic event for the college’s students, who graduate Friday. The keynote speakers and panelists from the military, academia and industry discussed decisions on national policy, strategy and resource allocation in the context of current global trends.

j.mcdermott@theday.com

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