The Patriot Post® · The Navy Swamp Needs Draining Too
The Navy is sailing in very troubled waters.
A scathing Navy report released Nov. 2 reveals that two major collisions — one between the USS Fitzgerald and merchant ship ACX Crystal off the Japanese coast on June 17 that killed 17 sailors and another between the USS John McCain and oil tanker Alnic MC near Singapore on Aug. 20 that killed another 10 — were caused by “fundamental failures to responsibly plan, prepare and execute ship activities to avoid undue operational risk.”
The USS Fitzgerald’s collision was precipitated by a “compilation of failures by leadership and watchstanders,” including lookout crews who “were inattentive, disengaged in developments on the Bridge, and unaware of several nearby vessels.” As a result they “failed to visually differentiate between two vessels in close proximity” while “attempting to cross a highly congested sea lane at night.”
Moreover the Officer of the Deck, the person responsible for safe navigation of the ship, “exhibited poor seamanship by failing to maneuver as required, failing to sound the danger signal and failing to attempt to contact CRYSTAL on Bridge to Bridge radio,” the report states. The officer also failed to “call the Commanding Officer as appropriate and prescribed by Navy procedures to allow him to exercise more senior oversight and judgment of the situation.”
The USS McCain’s collision was an equally damning sequence of errors. Because the person at the helm was having difficulty maintaining course while also adjusting the throttles for speed control, the Commanding Officer “ordered the watch team to divide the duties of steering and throttles.” This unplanned shift “caused confusion in the watch team,” that ultimately led the helmsman to believe the steering mechanism had failed. According to the report, crews attempted to fix the mistake by transferring steering “among various controlling stations four times within the two minutes leading up to the collision.”
Crew members also accidentally decoupled the ship’s two engines, and the two shafts “working opposite to one another in this fashion caused an un-commanded turn to the left.” This error, coupled with “lost situational awareness” on the ship’s bridge, effectively accelerated the McCain’s turn into the Alnic MC.
“The thing that stood out to me was in both situations they had minimal situational awareness,” stated Capt. Rick Hoffman, a retired cruiser captain who reviewed the report for Defense News. “In the case of Fitzgerald, nearly criminal negligence on the part of the bridge watch team. And in neither case did the ship sound five short blasts or raise the general alarm to let anyone know they were in danger.”
Incredibly, there were two additional incidents involving 7th Fleet vessels last year. In January, the USS Antietam guided missile cruiser ran aground near Yokosuka base. In May, the USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing boat.
The report minced no words regarding why these incidents occurred: “In each of the four mishaps there were decisions at headquarters that stemmed from a culturally engrained ‘can do’ attitude, and an unrecognized accumulation of risk that resulted in ships not ready to safely operate at sea.”
Since the collisions, eight senior leaders have been relieved of duty, and members of both ships’ bridge and Combat Information Center watch teams have also received administrative actions. And while the Navy does not make these actions public, they may include career-killing letters of reprimand. Moreover, if the continuing investigation demands additional punishment, it will be forthcoming.
“We are dangerously underinvesting in our military,” insisted Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) after reading the report. “Training, readiness and maintenance are hit the earliest — and tragic errors like this are the canary-in-the-mine warning bells.”
While true in some respects, Sasse’s assertion — essentially that basic competence requires increased funding levels — rings exceedingly hollow, especially when one remembers that Barack Obama’s Navy Secretary, Ray Mabus, made political correctness one of his primary objectives.
Marines in Congress from both parties criticized Mabus, also the former Democrat governor of Mississippi, for force-feeding co-ed training on the Marine Corps. They viewed the move as retaliation following the Corps request for an exemption from allowing women in combat. That request was based on studies showing sex integration would raise the risks of casualties. Mabus also attempted — and ultimately failed — to make all service job titles “gender neutral.”
And funding has nothing to do with a massive corruption scandal encompassing as many as 440 Navy personnel, current and retired — including at least 60 admirals — under investigation for their involvement with Malaysian contractor Leonard “Fat Leonard” Glenn Francis. Francis allegedly provided Navy personnel with cash kickbacks and “wild times” in return for receiving classified information and contracts.
Contracts with whom? The Navy’s 7th Fleet.
In 2015, Francis pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud that included scamming the Navy out of approximately $35 million. He remains in jail in San Diego awaiting sentencing on Dec. 1. In the meantime, he is cooperating with the DOJ, which has already filed criminal charges against 28 individuals, including two admirals.
The Navy is enacting some after-the-fact reforms following the acknowledgment in September that budget constraints, 100-hour workweeks, extended deployments, and training and maintenance delays have severely taxed the nation’s fleet and personnel. But top leaders speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee refused to directly tie the quartet of accidents to those problems.
“These collisions, along with other similar incidents over the past year, indicated a need for the Navy to undertake a review of wider scope to better determine systemic causes,” the report states.
The past year? On Jan. 12, 2016, two Navy riverine command boats were captured by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). A Navy report on that incident also cited “failed leadership at multiple levels from the tactical to the operational” as the reasons for the debacle.
What kind of leadership? The unidentified commander in charge of the boats “opted to surrender rather than fight back, citing later fears that a confrontation could endanger the Obama administration’s efforts to lock in a deal with Tehran on its nuclear program,” The Washington Times reported.
“Clearly, under President Obama’s plan to fundamentally change America, the degradation of our military forces was a key element,” asserts U.S. Navy Admiral and former commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet James A. Lyons. “The capitulation of our military leadership to accept these mandates was more than shocking, as it was a manifestation of the corrupt ‘political correctness’ mentality run amok.”
Thus the ongoing effort to embrace progressive dogma proceeds, even if military readiness and people lives are sacrificed as a result.
A sailor aboard the USS Shiloh, one of the Navy’s missile cruisers monitoring North Korea, told an anonymous Navy survey everything Americans need to know. “I just pray we never have to shoot down a missile from North Korea, because then our ineffectiveness will really show,” the sailor wrote.
As the aforementioned incidents indicate, it’s already showing. Thus it behooves the Trump administration to drain this particular swamp ASAP. National security cannot be held hostage to social engineering and political correctness.
And commanders in every branch of the military who disagree should be sent packing.