Last week, the Government Accountability Office told Congress that at the time of the deadly collisions involving the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain, more than a third of the Navy's Japan-based cruisers and destroyers had expired warfare training certifications. In additional documents reported by CNN on Monday, GAO noted that the McCain and Fitzgerald in particular were below the Navy's standards. USS Fitzgerald lacked all 10 out of 10 warfare training certifications, a list that would include the certification for "seamanship." USS McCain lacked certification in 6 out of 10 categories.
The Navy objected to these findings and noted that GAO did not report on 12 other, lower-level qualifications. However, the service declined to provide documentation to CNN on the ships' basic certifications.
The GAO's director for defense force structure, John H. Pendleton, outlined several likely factors behind the training deficiencies in testimony last Thursday. Pendleton told the House Armed Services Committee that relentless operational demands, fewer vessels, lower manning levels and a reliance on overseas basing had left little time for sailors to train. "In fact we were told that the overseas-based ships were so busy that they had to 'train on the margins' . . . that they had to squeeze training in when they could," Pendleton said.
The Navy is conducting its own internal review of its vessels’ op-tempo, personnel levels, maintenance, training and procedures. In addition, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer has announced that the service will engage with merchant vessel operators and other industries to learn about best practices in post-disaster turnarounds. "We're going to [review] best practices for people who have come out the other side," he said. Participants in the civilian-run strategic review include BP North America, Crowley Maritime, Maersk, Boeing and Sandia National Laboratories. Several are notable for executing turnarounds, particularly BP. Spencer also singled out Crowley's "Road to Zero" safety program as a "very admirable" example of continuous improvement.