Thresher 59th Remembrance, SUBSAFE Program

NAVSEA honored and remembered the crew members of the USS Thresher (SSN-593) during the 59th remembrance ceremony in the Humphreys’ building at the Washington Navy Yard.

“Thresher was the lead ship of a new class of submarines, a modern marvel of the technology of the time,” Rear Adm. Edward Anderson, deputy commander for Undersea Warfare (SEA 07), said during the ceremony. “The loss of Thresher and the deaths of the 129 men shook the nation.”

Thresher and the USS Skylark (ASR-20) were participating in a sea trial test on April 10, 1963 more than 200 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. As the test proceeded, Skylark received garbled communication from Thresher which eventually stopped. The loss of the submarine led the Navy to establish a quality assurance initiative two months later known as the Submarine Safety Program (SUBSAFE) still in use today.

“While the pillars of the SUBSAFE program – work, discipline, material control, documentation, and compliance verification – are the structure of the submarine safety program it is the personnel entrusted every day to its execution who have made it endure along with our commitment to ensure ignorance, arrogance, or complacency do not find a foothold within our organization,” Anderson said.

Guest speaker Diane Vaughan, who holds a Ph.D. in sociology and is a professor at Columbia University, was part of the official investigation analysis and report for the spacecraft Columbia Accident Investigation Board in 2003. She said decreasing risk within an organization needs to be addressed as layered systemic causes of close calls and failures.

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