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Admirals vow not to force undermanned, untrained sailors to deploy following deadly collisions
Facing a shortfall of roughly 6,200 sailors at sea, top Navy commanders promised lawmakers that they won't force undermanned and undertrained crews to deploy.
In 2017, the destroyers USS FItzgerald and USS John S. McCain were involved in separate collisions in the Pacific that claimed the lives of 17 sailors. Since then, the Navy has tackled the underlying causes of the deadly collisions by increasing the size of destroyers' crews and adding training for surface warfare officers. But the Navy still does not have enough sailors at sea.
Adm. John Aquilino, commander of Pacific Fleet, and Adm. Christopher Grady, commander of Fleet Forces Command, testified on Tuesday that the Navy still has about 6,200 billets at sea that need to be filled. If Congress passes spending bills on time, they estimate the Navy will be fully manned by 2024.
Navy officials could not specify which at sea billets the service needs to fill. Both admirals told the House Armed Services Committee that they will not send ships with crews that are not properly manned, trained, or equipped on deployments.
"It is, I believe, both fleet standards that no one deploys without the full complement of people," Grady said. "We do not ask a ship nor direct a ship to go on mission if they are not certified to do the job. Indeed there have been several occasions where I have said: 'That ship is not ready. We will need more time.' We know what the requirement is and if they're not ready, they're not going."
Aquilino said he had cancelled two ships' deployments because he did not feel the crews had enough training for the missions. One ship was supposed to join the Coast Guard as part of the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative to protect fisheries and the other was supposed to join the biennial Rim of the Pacific Exercise, he said.
In both cases, Adm. Phil Davidson, head of Pacific Command, approved Aquilino's recommendations not to deploy the ships. Davidson also allowed Aquilino to reduce the time a carrier strike group needed to be available to surge by about three months so it could prepare for maintenance.
However, ProPublica reported on Tuesday that Davidson told skippers in November 2017 that they would be deployed even if they did not feel their ships or crews were ready.
"If you can't take your ships to sea and accomplish the mission with the resources you have then we'll find someone who will," ProPublica quoted Davidson as saying.
Asked about Davidson's reported comments on Tuesday, Aquilino said he was not at the meeting cited in the story so he could not say if the article was accurate.
"What I can tell you is the deeds that he's implemented match the guidance that he's given me," Aquilino said. "So by him reducing some of the operational demands in the Pacific, to me that's a pretty strong example of someone who understood the concerns when the [collisions] report was written and doing his part to ensure that it doesn't happen again as well."
All ships deploying in the Pacific must have at least 95 percent of their crew, of which 92 percent of the sailors must be "the right person with the right skills in the right job," he said.
Aquilino told lawmakers that he is briefed several times a week about readiness and maintenance issues for deployed ships as well as ships getting ready to deploy. If he sees any indications that a ship's crew is not properly manned, trained, or equipped — or any other reason why the ship is unsafe — he will terminate the deployment.
"As you know, the world gets a vote, so depending on what's going on we have had very frank conversations," Aquilino said. "Again, in the instances I have identified, Adm. Davidson concurred with my recommendations and we did not deploy those ships."
SEE ALSO: Navy Admiral on ship collisions: Those were tragedies, but what about the other 280 ships that didn't collide?
WATCH NEXT: 7th Fleet Admiral Praises 'Heroic Efforts' Of USS Fitzgerald Crew
Former Marine Commandant tells Trump that pardoning troops accused of war crimes 'relinquishes the moral high ground'
Former Marine Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak has issued a statement urging President Donald Trump and members of Congress to oppose pardons for those accused or convicted of war crimes since, he argued, it would "relinquish the United States' moral high ground."
"If President Trump follows through on reports that he will mark Memorial Day by pardoning individuals accused or convicted of war crimes, he will betray these ideals and undermine decades of precedent in American military justice that has contributed to making our country's fighting forces the envy of the world," said Krulak, who served in the Marine Corps for more than three decades before retiring in 1999 as the 31st Commandant.
Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Associated Materials. Committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace, Associated Materials Incorporated is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn more here.
Associated Materials, a residential and commercial siding and window manufacturer based in Ohio, employs people from a variety of backgrounds. The company gives them an opportunity to work hard and grow within the organization. For Tim Betsinger, Elizabeth Dennis, and Tanika Carroll, all military veterans with wide-ranging experience, Associated Materials has provided a work environment similar to the military and a company culture that feels more like family than work.
President Donald Trump will nominate Barbara Barrett to serve as the next Air Force secretary, the president announced on Tuesday.
"I am pleased to announce my nomination of Barbara Barrett of Arizona, and former Chairman of the Aerospace Corporation, to be the next Secretary of the Air Force," Trump tweeted. "She will be an outstanding Secretary! #FlyFightWin"
The Trump administration is trying to assure Congress that it does not want to start a war with Iran, but some lawmakers who fought in Iraq are not so sure.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford both briefed Congress on Tuesday about Iran. Shanahan told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the U.S. military buildup in the region has stopped Iran and its proxies from attacking U.S. forces, but the crisis is not yet over.
"We've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans," Shanahan said. "That doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away. Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump warned on Monday Iran would be met with "great force" if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East, and government sources said Washington strongly suspects Shi'ite militias with ties to Tehran were behind a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone.
"I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything," Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Monday evening for an event in Pennsylvania. "If they do something, it will be met with great force but we have no indication that they will."