Wednesday, April 7, 2021


You recall that the investigation into the cause(s) of the two Burke collisions revealed the extensive use of waivers to allow personnel with missing or lapsed certifications to deploy and operate equipment.


You recall that the Navy and Marines are using waivers to keep pilots flight certified even though they are receiving insufficient flight hours to remain certified.


Now, the investigation into the sinking of the Marine AAV last summer that resulted in the deaths of 9 sailors and Marines has revealed – surprise! – that waivers were involved.  From the USNI News website article about the investigation’s report,


“We are going to be more directive,” he added. “Some things become non-waiverable.” (1)


So, two fatal ship collisions weren’t enough for the Marines to realize that waivers are a fatality waiting to happen?  They continued to use waivers?


Unfortunately, I do not have access to a copy of the report so I can only comment on the items discussed in the website article but that is more than enough.


The mechanical failures did not cause the loss of life. This vehicle sank over a period of 45 minutes,” said the former MEU commander, who spoke on background to discuss the investigation’s findings and the service’s follow-on actions. “There were multiple opportunities to intervene and prevent the loss of life. That’s the sad story behind this mishap and this tragedy.” (1)


No sir, the sad story is that you allowed the continued use of waivers which have been found to be a contributing factor in almost every incident in recent times.  YOU … ALLOWED … IT.


The long list of contributing factors included an absence of Marine Corps or Navy safety boats during the training event and the platoon receiving “deadlined” vehicles – AAVs that were set aside and in poor material condition. Marines lacked training and did not follow standard procedures, had inefficient flotation vests, and were operating in high seas – factors that raise serious questions about accountability at various units and senior commands, the investigation found. (1)




“We often say what we do is a dangerous business, and it becomes more dangerous when you don’t follow directed procedures or standard operating procedures and approved [tactics, techniques and procedures] that are designed and trained to make you more effective,” said a former division commander familiar with the details of the investigation. (1)


No sir, it does not become more dangerous … it becomes negligent homicide when you willfully, knowingly, and intentionally ignore the safety training and procedures, as evidenced by the use of waivers.


There is no – repeat, no – repeat, no – repeat, no – place for waivers during peacetime.  Waivers mean you failed to implement a REQUIRED certification, training, or procedure.  There is no excuse for this.  None.


If you can’t execute a task without waivers then you have no business attempting to do so.  You stop until you’ve successfully met the requirements.  It’s that simple.  Waivers are an excuse for not doing something the right way. 


Some military leaders try to rationalize the use of waivers as a means of accomplishing a ‘greater’ task or mission but this is just self-deception employed by people who lack the courage to do what is right;  who lack the courage to take a stand against incompetent leadership;  who lack the courage to say no to an unsafe task;  who lack the courage to put their own career on the line to protect their fellow sailors or Marines.  The reality is that there is no task so important in peacetime that it can’t wait for proper training and certifications to be completed.


“We’re a learning organization. We’re going to capture what we learn about this tragedy,” said the former MEU commander. (1)


No sir, you’re not a learning organization and you won’t learn anything from this.  You’ve had plenty of opportunities to learn from recent tragedies across the military and you’ve refused.  You’ve seen waivers repeatedly used and abused with fatal results and yet you continued – and still do - to use them.




Peacetime waivers should be abolished.  Pure and simple.  There is no need or excuse for waivers of any type.  Do it right to begin with and then you don’t need waivers.






(1)USNI News website, “Marine Corps Begins to Address Factors, Shortfalls Identified in Fatal AAV Mishap”, Gidget Fuentes, 2-Apr-2021,


  1. If you grant a waiver for safety in peace time it means one of two things: either that the granter of the waiver is irresponsible or that the requirement was inappropriate. Every waiver is an indictment of the one waiving or someone senior in command or both.

  2. US government and military leaders have an unfortunate tendency to prioritize LOOKING like a leader, over ACTING like a leader- not only in themselves, but in their subordinates. The officers who were fired for getting men killed in this training accident, could've saved their careers if they first asked their subordinates, "Do you have what you need to safely and competently carry out this out," and if the answer was "No," either get their subordinates what was needed, or cancel the exercise- NOT punish these subordinates for telling the truth, NOT demand they "Tough it out," and make do with what they had (or didn't have). The same could be said of politicians who kept making the US fight wars for which the military was NOT given the resources necessary to WIN, but voters' short memories kept allowing these politicians to keep their positions.

  3. I don't know how much more of this I can take.

    I feel like the country and the military are both going to heck in a handbasket.


    1. I fear this country and the military are both ALREADY in heck.

  4. Where is the push to use waivers coming from? And, how are they reviewed and approved? And, whoever is approving them is part of the problem, no?

    1. The push comes from the careerism of officers who refuse to say no to any request out of fear of looking bad. 'Can do', to promote one's career, leads to waivers being required to accomplish the task/mission.

    2. "Where is the push to use waivers coming from?"

      Government leaders- more interested in LOOKING like leaders, than ACTING like leaders- push the military to perform certain tasks, WITHOUT giving it resources necessary to perform these tasks. In turn, military leaders- sharing their civilian leaders' flaw of prioritizing LOOKING like leaders, instead of ACTING like leaders- push their subordinates to find some way of performing these tasks WITHOUT the necessary resources (including time), punishing these subordinates when they say, "We can't," instead of accepting reality. In turn, these subordinates become more interested in covering their own asses, than getting the (impossible) job done.

      The waivers are a crutch with which the military denies reality, specifically, its inability to perform certain tasks with the limited resources it has. Until government and military leaders prioritize ACTING like a leader over LOOKING like a leader, this problem will never go away.

      Case in point: "Freedom of Navigation Operations" to counter "Chinese aggression," for which the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain were preparing, when the ships collided. Government leaders who demanded, "Something must be done," should've been willing to raise taxes and enact conscription (reducing competition from the Army for enlisted personnel) so the Navy had the resources to carry out these operations, and accept the risk they'd be voted out of office for such unpopular measures; instead, they chickened out. The ships' captains should've delayed the missions until the ships and their crews were ready, and accept the risk of black marks on their service records for these delays; instead, they chickened out. The fleet admiral should've made clear he'd accept reality, that captains wouldn't be punished for operational delays in the face of critical shortfalls in ship repairs and crew training.

      The result of government and military leaders chickening out? Everyone suffers.

    3. "Government leaders- more interested in LOOKING like leaders, than ACTING like leaders."

      Precisely (same goes for many "military leaders"), it's all fiction, reality TV.
      The appearance of performance matters, actual performance does not.

  5. If this is supposedly a "core mission" of the USMC (I have my doubts it still is) then why do you need waivers?!? This should be well within everyone involved capability...BUT it's not, so you need waivers!

    Lack of training, supervision, experience!!! (yes, experience: it sure seems to me many involved including leaders didn't have experience and knew what to expect or predict outcomes, would be interesting to know how many had done this before, not just AAV but whole chain of command present), trashed vehicles, bad maintenance, etc, etc,etc....and this is a CORE MISSION!?! Would hate to see what a side mission looks like or something where they just have to go to war with no time to prepare.

    1. When I was in the Marines long ago these were referred to as "wartime waivers" that were used only during wartime. But the political corruption of pretending we are in a continual "war on terror" to justify ever larger budgets has corrupted that concept. And the reason for these problems are the excessive and mindless number of deployments and exercises due to budget games. Admirals and Generals can't squeeze more money from Congress with readiness at 100%.

  6. If we keep using waivers what's the point of the certification system supposed to do? Certifying is supposed to illustrate a state of readiness and competency. When we inevitably fails a certification,
    It's a cry for help, a call for attention from the upper echelons and maybe even Congress.It's to identify and solve apparent weakness that just needs a little bit care and attention.

    But we keep handwaving them away, how are we supposed to know what's wrong? More to that, how could anyone justify putting your serviceman (the citizens you solemnly swore to protect!) at risk over their own carrer advancement is beyond me. I know that the current commander will probably get reprimanded or fired and rightfully for his own fault but it's a shame that the Navy wouldn't pursue thid to its roots by finding out the people involved in letting training falls to such piss poor state.

  7. In addition, the two destroyers belongs to the 7th fleet.

    On the other hand, 6th fleet also had heavy loads (in Mid East monitor Iran and the Mitterrandian monitor Russia). Why didn't any this kind of accident?

  8. "Some military leaders try to rationalize the use of waivers as a means of accomplishing a ‘greater’ task or mission"

    But in peacetime, what task or mission is greater than doing things right?

  9. I am surprised that field grade officers in the Marines suffered a negative consequence. My expectation was that they would pin it on a lance corporal and a corporal, and maybe, if really needed for political purposes, railroad a staff sergeant.

    That is the problem. Unlike the navy where the captain suffers a consequence if something really bad happens and suffers a consequence if he is safe and misses a tasking, in the Corps field grade officers almost never suffer a consequence for a bad outcome, just for missing the tasking.

    Most famously recently, the Corps tried to pin at all on a Lt pilot who was sent in poor conditions to night refuel when he was way out of qualification to do so, and was only stopped from pinning it all on him by one person with morality leaking the real safety report.

    So of course the O3 commander and the O4 Ops O and the O5 Cdr let enlisted be out in literally junkyard AAVs on open ocean with no safety boat and no coordination with the ship. They checked those blocks already and were working on their green block powerpoint.

    Some serfs being in mortal danger is fine with the nobility. I am sure they are shocked they lost their shot at general, though.

    1. "That is the problem. Unlike the navy where the captain suffers a consequence if something really bad happens and suffers a consequence if he is safe and misses a tasking, in the Corps field grade officers almost never suffer a consequence for a bad outcome, just for missing the tasking."

      Congress is catching on to the officers' disregard for their subordinates' safety. Hopefully, seeing the Commandant publicly grilled, will make the officers take this problem seriously- you can't fix a problem before you acknowledge it exists.

  10. In a perfect world, the word waiver would not exist, but … we do not live in a perfect world.

    Waivers are required and all about evaluating risk, both severity of consequence and probability of occurrence; allow me to explain.

    As was mentioned in other comments, across the board individuals, units and commanders are not given all the resources that they need. Good example is scheduled ship maintenance. The maintenance required is known, but … never funded to the appropriate levels. So what this means is, before we even start, we know that we can not accomplish all the required maintenance. What we do is defer it and/or issue a waiver that allows this ship to continue to operate without the required maintenance and/or inspections. Not the right way to do business, but this is what we do.

    It is a vicious cycle and finding our way out of it would bring the Navy to a halt. Until someone decides to do that, the cycle will continue. So, Commanders/Decision makers weigh the risk and decide yes/no; normal ops in a non-perfect world.

    This happens in spades across DoD, and it is driven by, we like to build them, but can not afford to maintain them. Same thing for training, we are good at laying on all training requirements, but not even close to funding required to provide the assets or complete all the training. Again, we are not realistic about what it takes to fund and execute all these events; normal ops in a non-perfect world.

    Take this to the civilian world now, infrastructure … Same story, we know how to build roads and bridges, but do not have the funding to maintain and inspect; vicious cycle that gets worse every day.

    Epilogue … In a perfect world, a peacetime waiver should never be issued; violent agreement. Problem is without them, you would have no ships, airplanes, tanks, road and bridge closures, etc., and people sitting there doing nothing and waiting for funding/assets that are never coming.

    Sad state we are in, but we are our own worst enemy; want it all, can not afford it all. This started a long time ago and will not get any better until funding increases to support the requirements, or we downsize, never going to happen.

    1. You have aptly summed up the current situation but have failed to recognize the obvious and incredibly easy solution. In fact, you come close to stating the solution but stop just short of the next, tiny step that makes it a solution instead of a wish. Here's what you said:

      "It is a vicious cycle and finding our way out of it would bring the Navy to a halt. Until someone decides to do that, the cycle will continue."

      The key points were:

      'bring the Navy to a halt'

      'until someone decides to do that'

      As a preface to explaining the solution that just barely missed, do you recall the 1949 Revolt of the Admirals? If not, look it up. Wiki has a write up. THAT is the answer.

      As you stated, the abolition of waivers would bring the Navy to a halt - AND IT SHOULD! Until the Navy is fixed (meaning, brought up to date on maintenance and training) IT SHOULD NOT OPERATE.

      The second part - who would do implement this - is given by the example of the Revolt of the Admirals. The CNO should simply say, no, the Navy is not going to put another ship to sea that is not 100% maintained and trained. Further, he should make it crystal clear that he is ready to resign rather than violate the trust of the nation and the sailors under his command. Every single admiral in the Navy, active and retired, should publicly state the same thing. As happened in 1949, such a 'revolt' would suffice to force Congress to fund the necessary maintenance and training and force the Combatant Commanders to cease their endless, useless requests for more forces.

      With multiple fatalities having occurred because of waivers (and other related problems), neither Congress nor the administration is going to be seen as supporting waivers and fatalities … hence, the 'revolt' succeeds. All it requires is a bit of fortitude on the part of Navy leadership.

      It is the duty of naval officers to be responsible caretakers of the nations ships and to protect the safety of those under their command. Waivers are a direct violation of that duty and trust.

      "In a perfect world, a peacetime waiver should never be issued"

      In this world, waivers should never be issued and now you know how it can happen. Further, you have a real world, historical example of how it can happen.

      You came so close! That's okay ... now you know the real solution. We just need a CNO with integrity to organize the revolt and put his career on the line for the nation and his sailors.

    2. Appreciate the feedback and it was liberating to know that I got close on this one. Agree with you, it will take drastic measures to fix it. I believe their are people with the moral there to do this, will they? That

    3. Appreciate the feedback and it was liberating to know that I got close on this one. Agree with you, it will take drastic measures to fix it. I believe their are people with the moral there to do this,there will they? Thatfortitude is the question ...

  11. "the Marine AAV last summer that resulted in the deaths of 9 sailors and Marines".

    In additional to training, AAV7 is aged and not so safe. Marine had a program to replace it - Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) or called AAVV( Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle). Original plan was to deploy them in 2015. The project ended in failure. Its on water speed is about 3 times of AAV-7, rival China's type 05 amphibious armored vehicle. It uses a much powerful diesel engine than type-05, which has a less powerful engine thus heavily relies on manipulation of fluid mechanics.

    It might be time to re-open the project but with a new R&D team.

    1. "It might be time to re-open the project but with a new R&D team."

      To what purpose? The Marines have publicly stated that they are out of the amphibious assault business. That makes the AAV/ACV an asset without a purpose. There has been speculation that the Marines will eliminate many AAV/ACV vehicles. That being the case, why would we want to re-visit the EFV?

  12. EFV model:

  13. I find it strange (looking from the outside) in "the land of litigation and the compensation culture" that the DOD isn't taken to court by either individuals or your Occupational Health and Safety Administration. I would have thought if it isn't a war, an individuals health / life overrides lack of trained personnel or materials until the personnel or materials can be acquired or moved to the location where they are needed.

    1. Feres doctrine. Even if the officers deliberately order enlisted men into a situation to be harmed or killed in peacetime, or even in the barracks, the military and any officer with proof of duty status is immune.

      There is an exception for equipment manufacturers, but the federal courts deny federal common law status to service members, to make mass tort suits almost impossible. Agent Orange and the earplug lawsuits are a result of excellent lawyering and very sympatric federal judges.

    2. I am not a lawyer but I would think the more likely legal route would be criminal charges. For example, the Navy seriously considered homicide charges against the commanders of the destroyers that collided with commercial ships. Criminal negligence is a viable option, as I vaguely understand it. Maybe someone out there understands this better?

    3. The Burke OOD who deliberately failed to follow orders and who was in a batch fight with the CIC and wouldn't talk to them got in 10% as much trouble as an enlisted would for a genuine traffic accident while speeding 5 over in a government vehicle.


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