fitz Sometimes we ask our sailors to do too much: Navy officials testify at House hearing

USS Fitzgerald  after colliding with a Philippine-flagged container ship on June 17, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS / STR / Japan OUT (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

By Matt Saintsing

Two of the Navy’s top officers painted a bleak picture Thursday at a House hearing on recent incidents at sea that led to the death of 17 sailors.

“We should not, and cannot, have collisions at sea,” said Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran.

The pace of increased global operations, coupled with a diminishing number of warships, has put a strain on the force. John Pendleton, a director at the Government Accountability Office, said a whopping eight of the 11 Japan-based ships in the 7th Fleet area of operations had expired seamanship certifications as of June.

Today, out of 277 ships, 100 remain forward deployed.

Furthermore, Adm. Ronald Boxall, the director of surface warfare, said the Afloat Training Group (ATG) located in Yokosuka, Japan, which oversees ship training, is missing somewhere between 30-40 staff members.

Additionally, all three officials agreed that the last 9 years of unpredictable budgets from Congress has had a dangerous impact on the readiness of an already stretched thin Navy.

“It is absolutely the case,” that the budget constraints of nearly the past decade has contributed to the Navy’s current readiness woes, said Moran.

The diminishing conditions have proven to be deadly with four major incidents at sea this year alone involving the deaths of 17 sailors.

While the recent accidents have gained national attention, the Navy continues to answer to the requirements given to them. However, Moran pointed out that hard decisions have been made to meet the high requirements the nation asks of the Navy.  “We have allowed our standards to drop as our waivers have grown,” he said.

“Navy doesn’t create demands, the Navy responds to the demands,” Pendleton added.

Moran took a frank stance. “Sometimes our culture goes against us,” he said. “We ask sailors to do a lot, and maybe we asked them to do too much.”

Connect: @MattBSaintsing |

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