Friday, August 25, 2017

Antietam Grounding Report

The Navy has released (pried loose with a Freedom of Information Act request) its Command Investigation report on the Antietam grounding incident of 31-Jan-2017.

I debated whether to even comment on this because it feels a lot like beating a dead horse.  The Navy’s conclusion was that the grounding was due to general incompetence resulting from poor training and poor command behavior which is what I’ve been saying since I began publishing this blog.  How many more times and how many different ways can this be said before it becomes just background noise?  Well, in the end, I think it deserves attention.

To refresh your memory, the Antietam grounded during a failed anchoring attempt.  You can read the brief report for yourself through the link below.

The essence of the report is that absolutely no one involved in the entire evolution, from deck crew to CIC to bridge to the Commanding Officer did their job properly.  I’m not going to bother listing the specific failings.  They all fall under the heading of a lackadaisical crew that was improperly trained and led.

What I want to note from all this is the observation that if our Navy is not sufficiently well trained and led to execute a simple, basic act of seamanship like anchoring, what’s the odds that we’re combat proficient and ready to fight?  Yeah, zero.

We need to dump the entire officer corps, from the CNO on down, and start over.  They clearly aren’t doing their jobs.  Don’t anyone try to dismiss this as a one-off incident.  In recent times, we’ve had two Aegis cruiser groundings, an Avenger grounding, three collisions, and two captured riverine boats.  This is a systemic collapse of training and leadership.  If CNO Richardson had an ounce of integrity, he’d resign in humiliation.

I fully expect the recent collision reports to read much the same as this one when they come out.

What will take before Congress and SecNav realize that the Navy has a leadership crisis and cleans house?



  1. While it's easy to blame politicians for these accidents remember they were not in charge when the accidents happened the navy brass were and are where are the next Halsey Nimitz and Mitscher at when we need them because that is exactly who we need NOW some who will kick but and take names

    1. Exactly, We need competent admirals and commanders that actually focus on the safety and well care of the Navy.

    2. "the next Halsey Nimitz and Mitscher"

      Anyone with that kind of competence, confidence, and attitude has probably already been passed over for promotion and booted out of the Navy.

    3. ComNavOps, How so? Corruption?

    4. No. A person with type of aggressive, forceful personality is the opposite of the get-along, go-along type of person the peacetime Navy wants and would have been passed over for promotion.

    5. ComNavOps, Well if we are going to war, we need someone who has these categories,
      1. Discipline
      2. A sense of authority
      3. An inspiring leader
      4. An aggressive attitude towards the enemy
      5. A leader that can teach and train his troops
      That IMO makes the commander not only competent but allows him/her to focus on task as well as the men and women under their command.

    6. Agreed. However, you recognize that those are not the qualities that the Navy looks for in a peacetime commander, right?

    7. ComNavOps, I'm Well aware of it. I was putting the categories of a wartime leader.

  2. Under the current leadership I'm afraid it would take another Pearl Harbor type of attack to get anything done not that it would end any different there is simply to much of when is my Next promotion or retirement coming and desire to kiss up to next person above in rank to change

    1. Unless something incredible happens I'm inclined to agree

    2. Agree Delmar Lewis, afraid it will only get better after we get hit really bad....

  3. There is nothing wrong with beating a dead horse by posting this. In fact, I don't think any "beating" is sufficient enough to satisfy the objective of this blog.

    I observed this incompetence as a DIVO on a DDG in the early-mid 2000s. No concern by officers (sans a former merchant mariner, myself, and a couple other officers) for mastering the art of ship handling and becoming familiar enough with the engineering plant (i.e opting for an EOOOW qual, something most DIVOs on my ship ignored, entirely) to respond competently as an OOD in the event of an engineering casualty (e.g. in the Strait of Malacca).

    The lack of enthusiasm in the wardroom was mind-boggling, especially concerning the good pay and fantastic benefits provided care of the government to JOs.

    1. Always good to hear from those who have been there. Thanks for chiming in.

    2. To agree with Giant:

      I feel the whole "not enough time for training" is a red herring and its just misdirection.

      I've been on deployments where the crew got better day after day and was frighteningly competent on return to port.

      And I've been on deployments where the things got less and less stable with each passing day, real casualties and near misses were common, and all sleep was uneasy and fitful.

      It had nothing to do with "time". It was basic naval leadership. Were people leading or had they checked out mentally? If officers and chiefs act like riders (defined: onboard, but not in the chain of command) bad things happen.

      The gross overmanning has got to create a culture of ridership. How can it not? Rotate through a couple of short desultory sea tours in overcrowded wardrooms, then hit the beach for 7 years waiting for an XO ride. Who thought this was a good idea?

      I don't know much about the specifics, and I won't speculate, but from reading what's been released about the Porter and the Antietam, it seems like the CIC teams were behaving like they had no skin in the game. Like it wasn't their watch or their ship. Or their lives at stake. I assume the Fitzgerald and McCain reports will show the same.

      Very disturbing. There's not a lot of data for successfully fixing a culture gone bad.

      On the positive side, there's been so much written up, in the public doman, over such a long period that claims of ignorance are impossible. Agree that the CNO, VCNO (not you) and most of Surface Force leadership should be shown the door with alacrity.

      That won't fix the problem, but its a start. There are a lot of other things that have to change too. In general, the sailors are great. The leadership isn't. More in another comment.

    3. "The gross overmanning has got to create a culture of ridership."

      That's interesting. Ships are deploying with significant voids in enlisted ranks and yet wardrooms are overcrowded - something I've heard from others, as well.

      Nice comment.

  4. There's an interesting parallel here in the last time a navy was the master of the seas for several decades: the Royal Navy from about 1860 to 1910. Then, in broad strokes, they stayed good at ship-handling, but forgot how combat worked, somewhat assisted by it being obviously different due to technological progress.

    Now, the present-day USN is well aware of this piece of history, since it's been extensively written about. Andrew Gordon's _The Rules of the Game_ is the key book on the subject. I wonder if they're trying to concentrate on combat training (handicapped by it being so expensive to fire missiles, and in the absence of modern-day experience by the mountains of incompatible theories that come out of Washington), and are assuming that seafaring is easy? (hint: it isn't).

  5. I may be way off base, but perhaps the Navy's problem with seamanship is that it has become too political. They apply this "transformation" nonsense not just to ship acquisitions but to everything.

    The Navy always had some politics but it was more inter-service rivalry or between naval strategy factions such as battleship vs carrier, or small vs large vessels.

    Now in their quest for that nice retirement, the admirals have given in to the worst of both left and right on the political spectrum. The Hard right obsesses with counter-terrorism and suddenly we have ships like the LCS and who needs open ocean seamanship when your are only hugging the shore supporting SEALS. The Hard left meanwhile obsessives over social re-engineering and the admirals worries more about the .05% of the navy that might be transgender than the 75% whose lives will be in harms way in peer-to-peer combat.

    Counter-terrorism and Social issues do need dealt with BUT they are not the priority.

    I don't care if the officer of the watch is a guy in a skirt if he and/or she can sail the damn boat. I don't care if a ship can launch a SEAL team ashore in Iraq so long as they can also sink an Iranian Kilo class sub.

    It's a matter of naval priorities. The admirals are catering to the wrong ones.

    Forgive me CNO if I have come off a bit crude, but 20 sailors dead in a few months of peacetime has me a bit peeved.


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