After 2017 deadly collisions, Navy says 91 reforms have been implemented

NORFOLK, Va. - The Navy says it is making progress in a wide-ranging initiative to make the sea service safer following deadly collisions that killed 17 Sailors during the summer of 2017.

The USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) collided with the ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan on June 17, 2017.

The USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) collided with the merchant vessel Alnic MC on August 21, 2017.

In the wake of those collisions, several investigations and reports, including the Comprehensive Review (CR) and the Strategic Readiness Review (SRR), made numerous recommendations about what the Navy needed to do to restore readiness, improve safety, and make sure tragedies like the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions never happened again.

The Readiness Reform and Oversight Council (RROC) was established on January 30, 2018.

The Navy says its mandate was to "make our Navy a safer and more combat-effective force that places the safety, readiness and training of our people first."

A total of 117 recommendations were consolidated from the various reports and investigations. The Navy says six were redundant with other efforts and removed, leaving 111. Eight of those 111 were reviewed by the council and not recommended for implementation, leaving 103 to complete.

One year later, the Navy says 91 of the remaining recommendations from the CR and SRR have been implemented.

The Navy says they have taken a three tiered approach to the critical tasks.

Tier 1 are 'safe to operate' recommendations, Tier 2 are 'effective operations' recommendations, while Tier 3 are known as 'strengthening the culture of operational excellence' recommendations.

The following is a summary of the Tier 1 recommendations from the Navy regarding breakdowns in normal operations and how they are being addressed:

  • Elimination of Risk Assessment & Mitigation Plans (RAMPs). Many of our ships at sea were operating under RAMPs which allowed operations without appropriate equipment and training, as dictated by instruction and good seamanship. All RAMPS were cancelled in October of 2017 and our Force Generation strategy, the process by which we certify ships for sea, was completely restructured. Today, any operations outside the guidance established by the Surface Force Commander requires notification of a Four-Star Fleet Commander to ensure visibility and accountability.

  • Ready-for-Sea Assessments (RFSA). Fleet Commanders conducted Ready-for-Sea Assessments to ensure appropriate manning levels, training certification, and equipment status for every operational ship at sea. Fifteen of eighteen Forward Deployed Naval Force-Japan (FDNF-J) ships were assessed as ready for sea. The three remaining ships were immediately sidelined for additional training and maintenance prior to getting underway. RFSAs are now required prior to a ship’s first underway period following a period of maintenance, and represent a cultural norm that empowers and encourages Commanders to prioritize safety and communicate their any concerns they have about readiness to operate before heading to sea.

  • Implementation of a comprehensive fatigue management policy. In November 2017, SURFOR released a circadian rhythm-based fatigue management policy, including an individual crew risk management tool for use in evaluating crew rest. Even though all ships reported compliance with the policy, anecdotal feedback indicates uneven compliance during manpower intensive operational scenarios. During school house training and through intense follow-through by leadership at all levels, fatigue management has been incorporated at all levels in the surface fleet. Meanwhile, the Navy Postgraduate School is actively assisting with assessment of the policy’s effectiveness through proven operational research methods

You can read the summary of the Tier 2 and Tier 3 recommendations here.

News 3 asked Congresswoman Elaine Luria, who retired after 20 years in the Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer in 2017, about the Navy's reform efforts. Last week, Congresswoman Luria questioned Navy leadership about reform efforts.

In a statement, Congresswoman Luria said, "Technological advances are helpful, but they are not a substitute for well-trained, experienced, and rested watchstanders. Our Navy needs to focus on the fundamentals of safe navigation and reduce the risk of further collisions by properly manning, training, and equipping our surface forces. Our military cannot afford unforced errors in a world of constant threats.”

In a closing note, the Navy said it "would be naive to believe we are close to completing RROC’s work," after one year, and is vowing to continue the work in a team effort.

The entire report on the Readiness Reform Oversight Committee: One Year Later is provided here.

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