An internal review conducted by the Navy has led to alarming results. Officials admit that the majority of the ships assigned to the U.S. Seventh Fleet were never properly credentialed for their missions. The lack of training may have contributed to accidents involving two fleet destroyers.
Eight of the 11 ships in the fleet had expired certifications. They weren’t fit to conduct basic operations yet they were still cleared to go at sea. Over a dozen sailors lost their lives in the destroyer accidents. The Navy’s laxity had devastating consequences.
The USS Fitzgerald collided with a transport vessel late last June, resulting in the death of seven crewmen. The USS John McCain crashed into a Liberian ship less than a month ago, leading to the death of 10 sailors.
The Navy’s report implies that both tragedies could have been avoided. Poor seamanship bears more responsibility than ill-luck.
“But the certification reports suggest that the U.S. Navy may have knowingly sent ships to sea that weren’t fully certified for the missions they were conducting,” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said.
“This appears to be endemic of a systemic problem… The Seventh Fleet destroyers and cruisers may not have had sufficient practice to do the difficult transits they were doing, given the crowded waters they operate in.”
Navy destroyers typically cost over $1 billion to build. It’s expected that sailors piloting such expensive machinery know how to operate the ship. There’s no excuse for sloppiness.
“It is the Navy’s responsibility to ensure that all of our sailors receive the skills they need to perform their jobs at sea safely and effectively, and we take that responsibility very seriously,” Navy Cmdr. Bill Speaks said.
The Navy typically conducts months long training tests for its sailors, ensuring that they’re ready to maneuver the ship through calm and agitated.
However, Fox News reports:
“The U.S. Navy has acknowledged cutting back on certification procedures in the face of growing demand… The Navy repeatedly has said that increased demand on the Seventh Fleet has resulted in cutbacks on training and certifications. That pressure has only increased in recent months with each North Korean missile or weapons test, as the fleet conducts more exercises and patrols with the same number of ships.”
Training should be strengthed during times of need, not relaxed. The Seventh Fleet could find itself in a military operation and they need to be prepared. The standoff with North Korea shows no signs of cooling. War is becoming more likely every day.
“All of these things culminated in this notion we aren’t big enough to do everything we are being tasked to do, and our culture is we are going to get it done,” Adm. Bill Moran, vice chief of naval operations, said.
“We’ve asked those sailors to do an awful lot who are forward deployed, and perhaps we’ve asked them to do too much.”
Americans had higher expectations for its sailors. The U.S. Navy should be an elite operation. Society devotes huge sums of money to the military so it can achieve dominance. Technology is important, but the man or woman operating it is just as much so.
The sobering report will force the Navy to fix its errors. It’s likely that its leaders simply became complacent. It’s been a long time since its destroyers were engaged in a real battle.
“I personally made the assumption and have made the assumption for many, many years that our forward deployed naval forces in Japan were the most efficient, well-trained and most experienced forces we had because they are operating all the time,” Moran said.
“I made the assumption, it was a wrong assumption in hindsight.”