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miércoles, 28 de febrero de 2018

Republican Senators introduce bill to improve U.S. Naval readiness after fatal accidents

After several deadly collisions involving U.S. Navy ships shocked the world last year, conspiracy theories blaming the accidents on North Korea or Russia abounded — but ultimately, the Navy crews were found at fault for the “avoidable” collisions. Two senior Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee hope to ensure that never happens again, introducing legislation this week that would reform the U.S. Navy surface fleet’s readiness.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Roger Wicker of Mississippi introduced the Surface Warfare Readiness Act of 2018, which is designed to “address some of the root causes of declining readiness,” according to a statement released by McCain.

McCain is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Wicker chairs the Senate Seapower Subcommittee.

Fatal collisions at sea

The bill comes as the result of the Navy’s own Comprehensive Review of Recent Surface Force Incidents, and a separate Strategic Readiness Review from Navy Secretary’s Richard V. Spencer.

Both reports address the 2017 collisions at sea of two guided-missile destroyers: the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG-56). Between the two, the lives of 17 sailors were lost.

Fleet readiness degraded

McCain said the collisions are the result of the degradation of the readiness of the U.S. surface fleet operations.

“As we have seen too often in recent months, the significant shortcomings in our Navy’s readiness can have disastrous results,” McCain announced. “The ship collisions, including the USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain, degraded the capabilities of our fleet, cost hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, and – most importantly – took precious lives. The status quo is unacceptable.”

“Congress must provide the funding and oversight required to keep our military safe in peace and effective in combat. I commend Senator Wicker for his leadership on this legislation to improve the readiness of our Navy, and look forward to working together on these initiatives as part of the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act.”

Call for reform

Wicker said that last year’s deadly collisions, the shocking result of “complete breakdowns in standard Navy procedures and poor decision-making” by key personnel, were a clarion call for sorely-needed reforms within the service.

“In the wake of the tragic accidents involving the USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain, our commanders and sailors have been calling for meaningful reform,” Wicker said in a separate statement.

“Overextended and undermanned ships, overworked crews, fewer officers with naval mastery, and confusing chains of command have contributed to a decline in our naval power. My legislation – based on the Navy’s own recommendations – is specifically designed to address these and other challenges. Although I have confidence in the Navy’s leadership, I believe Congress needs to play an active role in helping them to succeed in this endeavor.”

Bill’s highlights

The measure addresses a wide range of issues, including:

  • Requiring the Navy to conduct a “clean sheet” review of its organization and chains-of-command;
  • Putting a senior Senate-confirmed Navy civilian in charge of ship maintenance;
  • Giving the Navy more time and flexibility to spend maintenance funds;
  • Requiring the Navy to deliver realistic baseline projections of sailors’ workloads & ship maintenance;
  • Calling for the Navy to keep records on watchstanding and training completed by surface warfare officers;
  • Setting minimum at-sea and simulator-based training requirements to qualify for critical positions on the ships;
  • Equalizing manning between ships homeported overseas and at home; and
  • Allowing the Navy and other military services some relief from onerous one-size-fits-all personnel management policies.

Another provision in the legislation calls for declassifying the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) annual reviews, earning the support of House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee chairman Rep. Wittman, R-Va.

“During peacetime, INSURVs should be declassified, and that makes sure there’s transparency there that we know what’s going on,” Wittman said earlier this year.

“That creates, again, that direction, that focus to make sure that maintenance is being done, maintenance availabilities aren’t being missed, material readiness is being maintained. All those things are critical.”