The Navy has issued its comprehensive review report of the recent ship collisions (1). The report has generally garnered praise for its openness, honesty, and degree of self-examination …… Bilgewater!
The report is the typical Navy collection of low level fault finding, meaningless recommendations (few of which will ever be implemented), calls for more oversight (as opposed to more competence), and vague generalities and platitudes about the Navy’s desire to prevent this from happening again. The reality is that these are not the first collisions and groundings that have ever occurred and will not be the last. If the Navy were serious, all these “fine” recommendations would have been implemented long ago – but they weren’t. When we investigate the next incident – and there will be a next – we’ll find the same low level faults and make the same useless recommendations. The Admirals will congratulate themselves on another investigation well done and move on with no meaningful improvements made.
Here’s a specific example. The Aegis cruiser
Port Royal ran aground a few years back for
all the same reasons that are identified in this report. Why didn’t the Navy implement the obvious and
desperately needed changes after that incident?
Here’s another. The Iranians seized two of our riverine boats after the boat crews committed every mistake possible, wandered into Iranian territorial waters, and allowed themselves to be captured. The Navy initiated studies and wrote reports which identified the myriad failings in training of basic seamanship and failure to follow procedures. What impact did those studies, reports, and recommendations have? None – as evidenced by these recent incidents.
Those examples produced no change. Why do we think this report will produce any change? It won’t.
Now, just to beat the issue to death, I’m going to highlight a handful of findings from the report for you to consider. The page numbers of the quotes are included for your convenience.
The report begins on an incorrect note,
“Today, proficiency in seamanship and navigation competes for time and attention with the expanding tactical duties of our naval professionals at sea.” (p.6)
Fundamental seamanship proficiency is not competing for training time with tactical duties, it’s competing for time with gender equality seminars, women’s sensitivity workshops, diversity training, sexual assault awareness counseling, climate change studies, green energy initiatives, uniform redesigns, transgender accommodation efforts, endless surveys that change nothing, and inspections that improve nothing. The failure to understand even this basic truth demonstrates that the report’s authors are as incompetent as the people they investigated. This complete lack of understanding sets the tone for the rest of the report.
The report notes that nearly every ship had/has expired certifications.
“…nearly 100 percent of Japanbased ships have one or more expired certifications, and in each case, a Risk Assessment Mitigation Plan (RAMP) is in place.” (p.71)
The report authors then go on to discuss the proper use of RAMP and the shortcomings in the program as it was being applied. The real finding should have been that not a single flag rank officer had the moral courage to say “no” to the continued excessive demands that led to every ship having expired operating certifications. Every single one of those officers is, therefore, complicit in the deaths of the sailors. They violated the trust of those they were charged with leading and protecting.
Written policies codify minimum standards and exist due to a lack of competence. If the personnel involved were competent there would be no need for a written policy – it would never come up. Consider the following statement from the report regarding the temporary assignment of outside personnel to a ship.
“… the Review Team found no formal ISIC or Type Commander policy exists that specifically addresses the temporary assignment of the right personnel or manage their qualification process for the (temporary) gaining ship for Yokosuka-based ships.” (p.73)
The report notes that no written policy existed and finds fault with this lack. What this statement is really saying is that no command authority had the competence to manage this practice. This statement is actually a condemnation of every command authority involved in the practice even though the authors of the report are too incompetent to realize it or lack the moral courage to say it, if they do recognize it.
The report presents a Matrix of Mishap Attributes for the various incidents (p. 115-6). The matrix includes 33 attributes. The matrix omits the most important attribute: the fact that every flag officer in the Navy had full knowledge of the condition and state of those ships and chose to do nothing about it. There’s the attribute that is common to every incident!
The report’s authors made 68 recommendations, if I counted correctly. However, there is only one meaningful recommendation and they failed to make it so I’ll make it.
Recommendation: Replace every serving flag officer with people who will hold themselves accountable to those they lead.
Implement that and all the other recommendations will take care of themselves.
(1)“Comprehensive Review Of Recent Surface Force Incidents”,