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Innovation

How one iPod cost U.S. taxpayers $86.9 million

Here's a small safety tip. When you're telling a 361-foot long, billion dollar submarine where to go, turn off your iPod.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor on

Here's a small safety tip. When you're telling a 361-foot long, billion dollar submarine where to go, turn off your iPod. That's what a Navy JAG investigation determined last week when it announced its analysis of the collision of the USS Hartford fast attack submarine, when the sub bashed into the USS New Orleans a year ago.

The Hartford is an attack submarine, so its sonar operators are supposed to listen carefully to everything around it, know exactly where everything is, and stalk enemy submarines.

Instead, the JAG board determined that discipline aboard the Hartford was lax and at the time of the crash, the navigator was listening to his iPod instead of, well, navigating. So, rather than docking his iPod, he crashed his ship into a mobile floating dock, the New Orleans.

The crash has been very expensive to repair and the Navy JAG board determined that the Hartford's captain, Commander Ryan Brookhart was to be relieved of his command. The Navy frowns on its officers breaking its boats in non-combat situations.

It turns out that the Hartford itself is a bit of a problem child. In 2003, the Hartford ran aground in Sardinia, crushing rudders, sonar, and other expensive shipboard systems. The Hartford's then captain, Commander Christopher R. Van Metre was also relieved of his command.

Repairs of the Hartford back in 2003 cost U.S. taxpayers about $9 million and took the sub out of service for seven months. This time, the Hartford's total repair bill is up to $86.9 million and it's been out of service for a year. Fixing the New Orleans cost another $2.3 million.

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