10 April 2008

45th Anniversary Of The Loss Of USS Thresher

Rear Admiral Thomas Eccles, NAVSEA 07

Forty-five years ago today, on April 10, 1963, while engaged in a deep test dive, USS THRESHER (SSN 593) was lost at sea with 129 Officers and men on board. Based on the findings of a Court of Inquiry and the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy hearings into the loss, it was concluded that a flooding casualty in the engine room, resulting from a piping failure in one of the seawater systems, was the most probable cause of the loss.

From this tragic event, the Submarine Safety (SUBSAFE) Program was established on December 20, 1963 to ensure implementation of recommendations resulting from findings of the THRESHER Court of Inquiry and THRESHER Design Appraisal Board. Today, the technical and administrative requirements of the SUBSAFE Program continue to evolve, and the most current are contained in the Submarine Safety Requirements Manual, NAVSEA 0924-062-0010 Revision C.

Simply stated, the purpose of the SUBSAFE Program is to provide maximum reasonable assurance that seawater is kept out of the submarine and that the submarine and crew can recover if there is a seawater casualty.

Our challenge today, 45 years after the loss of USS THRESHER, is to maintain the standards established by the SUBSAFE Program and to avoid ignorance, arrogance, and complacency.
The culture of the SUBSAFE Program needs to be continually reinforced at all levels of our community. The rigorous compliance with SUBSAFE requirements and attention to detail begin with design and extend through every aspect of construction, maintenance, and operations. The ability of our submarines to continue to operate successfully and return home depends on the vigilance and integrity of each one of us who works in this community. The ability of USS NEWPORT NEWS (SSN 750) and USS SAN FRANCISCO (SSN 711) to survive collisions at sea and to return home is testimony to the success of the SUBSAFE Program and the training of the personnel who operate our ships.

Recent findings regarding weld wire problems at a new construction shipyard with a long-standing successful submarine construction history demonstrate the need to be forever vigilant, particularly on well-established programs. We must continually re-examine our established practices and processes to ensure that we are doing the right things the right way. Every aspect of everything that we do needs to be approached with an attitude of “trust but verify.”

Our outstanding submarine safety record since THRESHER is a direct result of rigorous compliance with the technical and administrative requirements of the SUBSAFE Program. This success has not gone unnoticed. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board used the SUBSAFE Program as a model of an organization that successfully operates a high-risk program.
We must continue to maintain our vigilance, intensity, and integrity in all matters involving the SUBSAFE Program. The supreme sacrifice of those lost with USS THRESHER can best be remembered by never letting it happen again.


USS THRESHER (SSN 593)...Let us pause today to remember.

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