Navy chief says crew fatigue may have contributed to recent spate of ship collisions

The US Navy is blaming the high pace of operations, budget uncertainty, and naval leaders who put their mission over safety after multiple deadly incidents at sea.

The destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker last month off the coast of Singapore, leaving 10 US sailors dead and five injured. And the USS Fitzgerald, another destroyer, collided with a container ship in waters off Japan in June, killing seven sailors.

The collisions are still under investigation, but at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Sept. 19, the chief naval officer, Admiral John Richardson, said a failure of leadership throughout the service was the main contributing factor in the Navy’s lack of readiness.

Adm. John Richardson testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Defense about the Department of Navy's fiscal year 2017 budget and posture. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Armando Gonzales.

Adm. John Richardson testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Defense about the Department of Navy’s fiscal year 2017 budget and posture. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Armando Gonzales.

“I own this problem,” Richardson testified.

He vowed to make safety the most important goal of the Navy in the wake of recent events, acknowledging that commanders of vessels on forward deployments too often put the mission first, at the expense of safety.

“Only with those [safety certifications] done and the maintenance properly done can we expect to deploy effectively and execute the mission,” he said.

At the start of the Sept. 19 committee hearing, US Senator John McCain extended his “deepest condolences” on behalf of all Americans to the family members of those killed, some of whom sat in the hearing room. The USS John S. McCain was named in honor of the Arizona Republican’s father and grandfather, both of whom were Navy admirals.

Senator John McCain. Image from Arizona Office of the Governor.

Senator John McCain. Image from Arizona Office of the Governor.

John Pendleton, an expert on defense readiness issues with the Government Accountability Office, told lawmakers reductions in ship crew sizes had led to longer working hours for sailors – up to 100 hours per week in some cases.

Pendleton said he was skeptical that the Navy would be able to increase readiness until aggressive deployment schedules and other demands on the force were decreased.

Richardson said the Navy was closely investigating sleep deprivation among crews, causing McCain, the chairman of the committee, to question why the Navy was not making immediate changes.

“I think I know what 100 hours a week does to people over time,” McCain said. “I’m not sure you need a study on it.”

Richardson also warned that the increased deployment tempo frequently leaves sailors with insufficient time to prepare for missions, and it leaves the Navy with too few vessels. According to the Navy, the service has been trying to fulfill duties that require more than 350 ships with only about 275 ships available.

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer speaks during an all-hands call at Naval Station Mayport. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Schumaker.

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer speaks during an all-hands call at Naval Station Mayport. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Schumaker.

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer likened the situation to a balloon that has been filled with too much air and cannot be stretched any further.

“If you squeeze it, it pops,” he said.

There have been two additional Navy incidents in the Pacific region this year.

The USS Antietam ran aground near Yosuka, Japan, in January, and the USS Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel in May.

TOP ARTICLES
This is how missing or captured troops get promoted

According to the Department of Defense, prisoners of war and those under missing status continue to be considered for promotion along with their contemporaries.

6 reasons Charleston might be America's most gung-ho military city

From Charles Towne Landing to the Medal of Honor Museum, go grab a pint where George Washington drank and read about the military legacy of South Carolina's Atlantic jewel.

This is how long South Korea thinks it will take to conquer the North

South Korea says they are developing new plans to defend against advancing North Korean threats after a data breach left their outdated plans vulnerable.

This stunning video shows how well 100-year-old ammo works today

While original 1911 pistols surely still function today, turns out so does the ammo from that era.

This could be the Army's next rifle — and it's totally awesome

Textron debuted its newest rifle, the Intermediate Case-Telescoped Carbine, at AUSA. It's lighter and more deadly than the current M4.

16 jokes Germans could die for telling under the Nazi regime

The Nazi Party was well short of a majority when it came to power. So it's easy to believe that not everyone was a big fan of Hitler or his ideas.

These really smart people say bigger is better when it comes to building aircraft carriers

In an effort to reduce its fiscal footprint, the Navy is looking at making smaller ships. But these defense researchers say it's a terrible idea.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Two US allies, which were armed and trained by US forces, have turned their weapons on each other, and there isn't much the US can do about it.

This is the definitive history of the world's most advanced fighter jet

The new F-22A Raptor fighter jet is the most advance fighter jet in the world, and it dominates on every level imaginable.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

The plan was to buy 240 B-1As to replace the B-52 as the Air Force's primary strategic bomber, but eventually, they each found their place in the force.