The chief of operations for the US Navy has decided that twice is enough. Admiral John Richardson called for a global “operational pause” after the second major collision by naval warships this summer. Richardson announced that “this trend needs more forceful action,” although the current priority is locating the ten missing sailors from the USS John S. McCain:
Declaring that ”this trend needs more forceful action,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson called Monday morning for a global fleet-wide operational pause in order to understand the causes of the service’s spate of fatal at-sea collisions this year.
“I want our fleet commanders to get together with their leaders and their commands to ensure we’re taking all appropriate and immediate actions to ensure safe and effective operations around the world,” Richardson said in a video released Monday morning.
Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters shortly afterward that the review would have a broad scope. Mattis also pledged transparency for the results:
“The Chief of Naval Operations’ broader inquiry will look at all related accidents, incidents at sea, that sort of thing. He is going to look at all factors, not just the immediate ones — that will fall rightly under the fleet commanders investigation of what happened to his ship. This is a broader look at what is happening,” Mattis said to reporters traveling with him in Jordan. …
The fleet-wide inquiry ordered by Richardson will “look into these incidents and to determine any of the causal factors to determine what’s going on, both immediate contributors to this incident but also any related factors. Once we have those facts we’ll share them with you,” Mattis said.
According to CNN, the pause won’t take place all at the same time. Each command will take one full day to review their operations, but will not put off critical missions:
The pause is a one-day safety stand-down that would be done over the course of a couple weeks and at the discretion of individual commands, the source said. …
The commander of US Fleet Forces Command, Adm. Phil Davidson, will lead the review.
That review “will examine the process by which we train and certify our forward deployed forces in Japan to be ready for operations and war,” according to Richardson in the statement. “This will include, but not be limited to, trends in operational tempo, performance, maintenance, equipment and personnel. It will also focus on surface warfare training and career development, including tactical and navigational proficiency.”
Richardson alluded to a string of incidents previous to the Fitzgerald collision as part of the motivation for this intervention. Those haven’t made the news, apparently, but Richardson is perhaps seeing more than just coincidence. The reference to operational tempo may hint at an issue of being under-resourced and stretched too thin. With Donald Trump expected to announce additional deployments to Afghanistan, that issue may come up in other contexts as well.