Navy Committed to Correcting Mistakes that Led to Collisions, Deaths
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued Nov 02, 2017)
WASHINGTON --- The chief of Naval Operations said today that the collisions in the Pacific that killed 10 sailors aboard the USS Fitzgerald and seven sailors aboard the USS McCain were entirely preventable, and the service is committed to correcting the actions that led to the accidents.

Navy Adm. John Richardson told Pentagon reporters that many aspects combined to cause the accidents, including lack of training, hubris, sleep deprivation, failures in navigation and failures in leadership.

The guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain sailed when they shouldn’t have, he said, and that decision falls on the commanders, who are responsible for conducting risk assessments.

The demand for ships, or any military capability, is defined by the security environment, Richardson said, adding that the Pacific has been a very demanding environment of late.

The demand of the security environment must match against the resources that can be applied. “When you have a gap between those two, that’s risk,” the admiral said. “It's all part of that … day-to-day assessment. Every commander has to wake up each day at their command level and say, what has changed in my security environment? What is my new risk posture? And how am I going to accommodate or mitigate that risk?”

Cultural Change

At some point, commanders cannot mitigate the risk, and they should say no to the mission, he said, but the present culture is such that commanders will assess the risk to be acceptable when it is not.

Changing that culture is one goal for the chief -- he wants commanders to be honest about assessments and the shortfalls they have.

While the changes are in the 7th Fleet area, the Navy is on all the seas. “A review of your Navy today shows that this morning there are 100 ships and 64,000 sailors and Navy civilians who are deployed,” Richardson said.

“This includes three carrier strike groups and their embarked air wings, three amphibious readiness groups, and their embarked Marine expeditionary units, six ballistic missile defense ships on station, 11 attack submarines, five [ballistic missile submarines],” he said. “The vast majority of these ships are conducting their missions, some of them extremely difficult, effectively and professionally, protecting America from attack, promoting our interests and prosperity, and advocating for the rules that govern the vast commons from the seafloor, to space, and in cyberspace.”

The Navy and its sailors are busy, and they have been integral to the wars America has fought since 9/11. “Recent experience has shown that if we're not careful, we can become overstretched, overextended. And if we take our eye off the fundamentals, we become vulnerable to mistakes at all levels of command,” the admiral said.

To address this, the Navy has taken some immediate actions, including restoring a deliberative scheduling process in the 7th Fleet, conducting comprehensive ready-for-sea assessments for all Japan-based ships, establishing a naval service group in the Western Pacific -- an independent body in Yokosuka, Japan that will keep their eye on readiness generation and standards for the Pacific Fleet commander -- establishing and using a near-miss program to understand and disseminate lessons learned, and establishing policies for surface ships to routinely and actively transmit on their automatic identification system, Richardson said.

Midterm actions will emphasize training, establishing comprehensive policies on managing fatigue and accelerating some of the electronic navigation systems upgrades, he said.

“Long-term actions include improving individual and team training skills, with an emphasis on basic seamanship, navigation and integrated bridge equipment; evaluating core officer and enlisted curricula with an emphasis on fundamentals [and] navigation skills,” the admiral said.

“I have to say that fundamental to all of this is how we prepare leaders for command,” Richardson said. “We will deeply examine the way that we prepare officers for increasing leadership challenges, culminating in assumption of command with the capability and the confidence to form, train and assess warfighting teams on the bridge, in the combat information center, in engineering and throughout their command.”

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US Navy Orders Back-to-Basics Reforms after Deadly Collisions
(Source: Voice of America News; issued Nov 02, 2017)
WASHINGTON --- The U.S. Navy announced a series of systemic reforms on Thursday aimed at restoring basic naval skills and alertness at sea after a review of deadly ship collisions in the Asia-Pacific showed sailors were under-trained and over-worked.

Seventeen sailors were killed this year in two collisions with commercial vessels involving guided-missile destroyers, the Fitzgerald in June off Japan and then the John S. McCain in August as it approached Singapore.

Those were not the only mishaps involving U.S. Navy sailors this year, which also saw the guided-missile cruiser Lake Champlain collide with a fishing vessel in the Sea of Japan in May. The guided-missile cruiser Antietam grounded in January in Tokyo Bay.
“What happened was a gradual erosion of the margins of safety,” Admiral John Richardson, who as the chief of naval operations is the Navy's top uniformed officer, told a news briefing, as he unveiled the results of the broad Navy review.

Rising pressure to meet demands for more and more Navy operations, particularly in the Asia-Pacific, led those in command to rationalize declining standards that ranged from basic seamanship to operational safety, Richardson said.

The Navy’s review called for reforms that will cost between $400 and $500 million over the next five to six years, including periodic, standardized assessments of seamanship and bolstering training of navigation fundamentals.

It also involved ensuring back-to-basics measures like ensuring sailors get enough sleep. The Navy said fatigue was a contributing factor in the Fitzgerald and John S. McCain collisions.

Senator Roger Wicker, the chairman of the Senate Seapower Subcommittee, said the Navy needed more ships to meet the demands for operations at sea. Boosting the size of the Navy is a key objective of Republican President Donald Trump.

“We are asking too few ships to do too many things,” said Wicker, a Republican.

Representative Mac Thornberry, who heads the House Armed Services Committee, also said the sailors’ deaths were “entirely avoidable” and added the Navy was being asked “to do too much with too few resources.”

“The Navy is committed to addressing these issues, but they cannot fix them on their own. Congress has a role to play as well,” Thornberry said.

“I am ready to support the Navy’s request for any additional training, manpower, or equipment they need to prevent these tragedies in the future.”

During the summer, there was speculation that cyber warfare might have been to blame for the repeated mishaps, which stunned the Pentagon. The Navy, during its investigations, ruled out the possibility that hacking was to blame.

“These ships in the 7th Fleet did not master the fundamentals,” Richardson said.

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