Friday, November 10, 2017

Collision Comprehensive Review Findings

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”, 26-Oct-2017


  1. The expressed need for a policy on temporary assignments indicates that cross-decking happens frequently and is needed to support routine operations. That’s distressing, to say the least.

  2. If you dont trust me, trust this guy:

    It has absolutely nothing to do with sexual harassment, or diversity training, or whatever other hippy bogeymen you want to bring out. This is about the Navy forgetting its primary mission and letting all the luxuries of an extended peace supersede basic seamanship and warfighting capabilities.

  3. I felt the report provided a comprehensive timeline of the events that led up to the two collision. That's all I was looking for because there exists a plethora of documents warning of what would happen to the Surface Fleet by getting rid of the SWOS school and de-emphsising Navigation and Basic Seamanship.

    In the FITZGERALD's case, the OOD failed to even carry out the standing orders and provide contact reports to the CO. IMO, the only reason this did not occur is because the JO was scared to wake up the Captain. To say nothing of the fact the TAO/CIC had clearly dropped the ball as well.

    As for MCCAIN, the fact that the CO chose not to set the Sea and Anchor, thus foregoing having a Master helmsmen who is intimately familiar with the Helm Console, along with not having Aft Steering manned while transiting the straits of Malacca is quite honestly prison worthy.

    Yes we can argue the CNO should probably have resigned but IMO, people qualified individuals to stand watches they were quite simply not prepared for. Is that a function of the CO just wanting to do their time onboard and go ashore w/o incident, a result of the numerous unassigned ENS that preclude getting the watch hours or is it due the fact that for the most part, SWOS Seamanship skills peak in the middle of their second DIVO tour.

    1. Let me throw out a couple of perspectives.

      First, when something goes wrong on a ship, no matter who committed the act, who bears the ultimate responsibility, no matter where they were or what they were doing at the time? The CO, of course. Many a Captain has had a career ended for acts by the crew for which they had no direct involvement or blame. The CO is always responsible and pays the price when something goes wrong. So, when the entire Navy goes wrong (collisions, groundings, boat seizures, wholesale expired certifications, etc.), who bears the ultimate responsibility? Who is the Captain of the Navy? The CNO, of course. He must go and if he had any integrity, he'd resign.

      Another perspective ... People didn't qualify individuals for duties they were not prepared for - the Navy's culture did that. The culture of never say no. The culture of hide the truth. The culture of never contradict a superior. The culture of no excuses. The culture of the zero-mistake mentality.

      The "people" who qualified the individuals simply did what the Navy "told" them to do. That doesn't excuse the "people" but it does demonstrate that they had no other choice given the culture of the Navy.

      Who's to blame for the culture? Where does the buck stop? With the CNO, again. He inherited a broken culture and chose to continue it rather than fix it. Again, more reason why the CNO must be fired since he hasn't got the integrity to resign.


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