Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ominous submarine portents - Part 6: Next

Analysis of USS Miami's catastrophic shipyard fire (May 23, 2012) cannot be completed until we learn the fate of the confessed arsonist and related investigatory findings. Jarring new revelations are no longer expected, however. Something problematic is obviously looming.

The value of each U.S. attack submarine (the Virginia class boats serviced by PNS) exceeds $2 Billion each, and inherit security, safety and employment practices regarding Virginias is an order of magnitude more complex than that for most surface vessels. Why then is the ultimate overseer of submarine-related shipyard work not a former submariner?

PORTSMOUTH — (July 25, 2012) Few warning signs in Portsmouth Naval Shipyard arson case [color emphasis added]

Opinion #1
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard should not be blamed for failing to see in accused arsonist Casey Fury any warning signs that might have hinted at his state of mind, a former shipyard commander said Tuesday.
It seems to me that the younger generation (doesn't) display the rather rigorous ethics and common-sense standards that people from previous generations had. In other words, you didn't have to be told you don't light fires because you want to get off early to see your girlfriend... [I]t is possible the Navy will have to tighten some of its hiring procedures, but he noted the shipyard needs some relatively low-skilled, but trained individuals to do certain rudimentary jobs. - Retired Navy Capt. Peter Bowman

Opinion #2
Some observers have said the shipyard should have policies against allowing workers to bring cell phones and lighters aboard a nuclear submarine. Cell phones without cameras and lighters are permitted in the shipyard's industrial area. - including dolphin earners

Opinion #3
We've seen a lot of issues (showing) the importance of mental health in the military. Maybe even shipyards are going to have to be looking at this stuff. On the positive side, the Navy's 'submarine community' has shown it is very good at learning from mistakes. I see no reason to think that this would be an exception. -Eric Wertheim, naval analyst with the U.S. Naval Institute, defense consultant, columnist, author specializing in naval and air force issues; graduate of the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Academy; Reserve Police Officer of the Year in 1997.

Opinion #4
Of the three opinions above, which are sound as far as they go, only #2 was offered by anyone actually qualified as a USN submariner. Of the current Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Commander (Capt. Fuller), and his two immediate predecessors (Captains Mazzone and Bowman) none ever commanded a submarine. The pattern of selection for PNS's commanding officer seems seriously out of kilter with commensurate security, safety and employment issues for USS Miami (a Los Angeles class sub), and $2 billion+ USS Virginia class boats.

Finally, note how Opinion #3 (nonsubmariner) credits the submarine community with "very good at learning from mistakes." The fact is it was not the submarine community that made these mistakes, it was our Congress AND the navy's surface hierarchy. - Vigilis (qualified SSN)

Submarines are always silent and strange.

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