Admirals vow not to force undermanned, untrained sailors to deploy following deadly collisions

news
The 7th Fleet Has A Major Mishap Problem

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

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Two military bases in Florida and one in Arizona will see heat indexes over 100 degrees four months out of every year if steps aren't taken to reduce carbon emissions, a new study warns.

Read More Show Less

This Veterans Day, two post-9/11 veterans-turned congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation to have a memorial commemorating the Global War on Terrorism built on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Read More Show Less

Between 500 and 600 U.S. troops are expected to remain in Syria when all is said and done, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley said on Sunday.

Milley's comments on ABC News' "This Week" indicate the U.S. military's footprint in Syria will end up being roughly half the size it was before Turkey invaded Kurdish-held northeast Syria last month.

Read More Show Less
Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a fund-raising fish fry for U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa), Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at Hawkeye Downs Expo Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Associated Press/Charlie Neibergall)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — On Veterans Day, Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg is proposing a "veteran-centric" Department of Veterans Affairs that will honor the service of the men and women of the military who represent "the best of who we are and what we can be."

Buttigieg, who served as a Navy intelligence officer in Afghanistan, said service members are united by a "shared commitment to support and defend the United States" and in doing so they set an example "for us and the world, about the potential of the American experiment."

Read More Show Less
Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a Climate Crisis Summit with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (not pictured) at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. November 9, 2019. (Reuters/Scott Morgan)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders promised on Monday to boost healthcare services for military veterans if he is elected, putting a priority on upgrading facilities and hiring more doctors and nurses for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

To mark Monday's Veterans Day holiday honoring those who served in the military, Sanders vowed to fill nearly 50,000 slots for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals at facilities run by Veterans Affairs during his first year in office.

Sanders also called for at least $62 billion in new funding to repair, modernize and rebuild hospitals and clinics to meet what he called the "moral obligation" of providing quality care for those who served in the military.

Read More Show Less