Test results for steel used in US Navy subs ‘falsified’ for decades

Follow RT on A former metallurgist at a Washington state foundry that produced steel used in US Navy submarines has admitted to taking “shortcuts” and doctoring the results of strength and toughness tests on the metal for over three decades.

Elaine Marie Thomas, 67, pleaded guilty to the fraud at a Tacoma court on Monday. Thomas was the director of metallurgy at a foundry in the city that provided steel castings used by Navy contractors Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding to manufacture submarine hulls.

According to the Justice Department, the tests were to prove that the steel would hold up in a collision or during certain “wartime scenarios.” While there was no information on whether any submarine hulls had failed, authorities said the Navy had incurred additional costs and maintenance-related expenses to ensure the vessels were seaworthy. 

Although the government did not reveal which subs were affected, the contractors have jointly built Virginia class submarines for about two decades. In a statement to the court, Thomas’ attorney noted that the “government’s testing does not suggest that the structural integrity of any submarine was in fact compromised.”

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In her plea agreement, Thomas told the court that she faked test results for at least 240 steel productions between 1985 and 2017 – roughly half the steel the foundry supplied to the Navy. Her attorney said Thomas “took shortcuts,” but “never intended to compromise the integrity of any material.”

In 2017, a metallurgist being groomed to replace Thomas noticed the suspicious test results and alerted the foundry’s parent company, Bradken Inc. The Kansas City-based firm fired her and disclosed the falsified data to the Navy, but suggested that the discrepancies were not the result of fraud. Prosecutors said this affected the Navy’s efforts to investigate the scope of the problem and address potential risks to personnel.

The Justice Department said that when investigators confronted Thomas with the fraudulent results, she admitted that it “looks bad” and revealed that she had given passing grades in some tests because she thought the Navy’s temperature-testing requirements were “stupid.”

Thomas, who faces up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine when she is sentenced in February, was apparently not “motivated by greed nor any desire for personal enrichment,” her attorney said, adding that she “regretted failing to follow her moral compass.”

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