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Navy Calls Deadly Crashes 'Preventable'


There has been a reckoning within the U.S. Navy. A series of basic errors led to deadly collisions involving Navy ships earlier this year. That's according to a new report looking into the incidents that left 17 sailors dead. The Navy's top admiral, John Richardson, now promises he will make sure sailors are properly trained on the basics of how to navigate a ship. NPR's Tom Bowman has more.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Admiral Richardson told reporters the accidents involving the USS John S. McCain and Fitzgerald were preventable, and the causes included numerous failures - failure to navigate, operate the ship's steering system, stand watch, respond quickly when about to collide with another ship.


JOHN RICHARDSON: These were fundamental mistakes of ship driving.

BOWMAN: How did the Navy get here? Part of the reason is a change in training. For decades, junior officers used to spend months in the classroom and on patrol craft learning the basics. Then in 2003, the Navy changed all that. Ensigns were given a load of CDs and told to report to a ship for on-the-job training. That was abandoned in 2010, and the Navy said the training wasn't sufficient. So does that mean there are numerous officers out there who can't drive a ship? The admiral says new assessments of each ship will answer that question.


RICHARDSON: I'm concerned enough that I support these ready-for-sea assessments. We're going to get a solid baseline of that readiness and proficiency.

BOWMAN: The admiral also said his sailors will now get more sleep because fatigue was a factor in the collisions. And he also said the Navy must change the culture of taking on too many operations with too few ships and not being prepared. Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Bowman is a NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.