Following a string of collisions involving U.S. Navy warships and commercial vessels, investigators, lawmakers, and other interested parties are beginning to understand why: A disturbing lack of crew certification and training:

After a string of deadly accidents in the western Pacific, a top admiral acknowledged on Thursday that the Navy had knowingly operated warships there despite a growing number of major training and maintenance shortfalls — all to meet increasing operational demands.

An unusual hearing of two House Armed Services subcommittees offered no new information about what caused four Navy mishaps in the western Pacific this year, including two fatal collisions between Navy destroyers and foreign cargo ships that left 17 sailors dead. Those accidents remain under investigation.

But the hearing painted a disturbing portrait of fatigued crews and commanders on a shrinking overseas fleet saddled with constant deployments — including confronting an expansionist Chinese military and keeping vigil on a nuclear saber-rattling North Korea — with little time left to train or to repair aging ships.

“The Navy is caught between unrelenting demands and a shortage of ships,” John H. Pendleton, a director of the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, told lawmakers. The office has chronicled the Navy’s woes in several recent reports.

Source: The New York Times

Why it’s on our radar: Navy brass has told lawmakers they were aware of warnings by Navy experts and congressional watchdogs that crews and ships are being pushed well beyond their limits, at the expense of training. And while the Navy is still reportedly investigating whether its vessels were hacked, the accidents — whatever the cause — has nevertheless brought out critical readiness issues.

The Navy brass is taking responsibility for all of this because that’s what top service chiefs do, but ultimately this is not theirs or the Navy’s fault, it’s Congress’ fault. There are too many missions, too much tasking, and not enough resources to safely accomplish the mission. And now, even as the sea service is cutting too many corners in order to conduct all the missions it is tasked with, accidents have reduced the size of the fleet even further.

Until the equation changes — which will take years of additional funding from Congress — the Navy will continue to operate dangerously, too many good line officers will be forced out, and more American lives will be lost.