By: Zack Duvall
Following the conclusion of a full and comprehensive review of U.S. Navy operational readiness and procedures, that included a 24-hour hold on all global U.S. Navy movements, new guidelines are being issued throughout the service’s chain of command set to be effective immediately.
The new guidelines come after numerous collisions at sea, specifically involving the Pacific Fleet, that highlighted how detrimental the cuts made to the armed forces under the Obama administration have been to the services, who struggle to continue meeting operational needs throughout the world.
This past summer saw two separate collisions in the Pacific alone within two months of each other that resulted in the death of 17 U.S. sailors. Both of those collisions took place as the U.S. vessels attempted to navigate the busy waters near the large ports in Tokyo and Singapore.
The Armed Services Committee has held various hearings on the matter since July and just last week were hearing testimony from Navy leaders on why issues, that numerous navy watchdog groups have been raising the alarm on since 2010, have gone unaddressed for so long and been allowed to be responsible for the deaths of U.S. sailors.
“Many of these issues we’re discussing today have been known to Navy leaders for years. How do you explain that Admiral?” An animated John McCain asked of Adm. John Richardson, chief of U.S. Navy operations during the hearing last week.
“Senator, there is no explanation.” Richardson replied.
The new orders being handed down by naval leadership include a renewed focus on more rest for sailors at sea and the ceasing of “100-hour work weeks” as well a new focus on communication between naval vessels and commercial ships navigating the seas.
Another major part of the new directives is the refocus on basic seamanship skills, including basic compass reading planning courses using pencils and paper to track potential hazards at sea.
Vice Adm. Thomas S. Rowden is the naval officer responsible for the new orders and is also one of the U.S. Navy officers that has announced his resignation over the summer’s deadly collisions.
The two other notable removals of Navy officers over this controversy include Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, the former head of the Seventh Fleet and the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Adm. Scott H. Swift.
Adm. Swift resigned earlier this week after it was made clear that the findings of the review and the controversy surrounding the accidents would prevent him from a key role at the Pentagon that would oversee any military action in North Korea.
Although the facts surrounding the various collisions are tragic and nothing can bring back the loss of life, many naval leaders are confident that the new measures will improve the Navy’s ability to carry out its mission safely and happy issues within the service are being addressed by again focusing on essential seamanship skills. .
“Adm. Rowden is stomping his feet and saying, ‘we’ve got to get back to the basics.” Vice Adm. William Crowder said of the new guidelines.
However, while the events that are at the center of the recent controversy surrounding naval operations and readiness is focused on the naval assets connected to the Pacific Fleet, various naval leaders say that the review was of the Navy as a whole and changes will be implemented service wide.
“We found somethings about risk that don’t match what we thought, and we’re making changes in things we discovered. When we have something like this happen, we do rigorous homework, we’re not standing fast.” Adm. Kevin Dunegan of the Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain said of the changes to Navy operations.
While some say that a change in leadership is a welcome development, many defense and military experts point out that the main underlying reason for the numerous accidents, to include aviation accidents that have claimed the lives of Marines and Army soldiers alike, are the direct result of over burdened services being forced to “do more with less.”
Something the Trump administration has vowed throughout the past year to address, and recently added billions of dollars for defense department projects that included updating various assets within the military and providing fro expansions to be made in order to continue meeting mission requirements.