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A General Accountability Office report has found that more than a third of the Navy’s ships based in Japan do not have properly trained crews.
There are 70 to 80 ships and submarines in the 7th Fleet, which is on the front line of sea-based missile defense against North Korea. The GAO testimony focused on the destroyers and cruisers, the two kinds of ships involved in the four collisions this year. The Navy’s ships require more than a dozen training certifications, including mobility and seamanship and warfare capabilities like ballistic missile defense and surface warfare.
The cause of the McCain collision is still under investigation, but military leaders, lawmakers and the GAO have long warned about the Navy’s readiness crunch as the size of the fleet has increased and the number of ships deployed has remained constant, while the length of deployments has increased. “The Navy has had to shorten, eliminate, or defer training and maintenance periods to support these high deployment rates,” John Pendleton, director of the GAO defense capabilities and management, said in the written testimony.
But the GAO has also issued specific warnings about ships based abroad, and specifically Japan. In a May 2015 report, the GAO said that the Navy’s schedules for overseas ships limited dedicated training and maintenance time — and found that incidents of degraded or out-of-service equipment nearly doubled from 2009 to 2014.
There’s more, but essentially the Navy has been sending these ships out without properly trained crews.