Navy ships in deadly collisions had lengthy training lapses

Two US Navy destroyers involved in deadly collisions this year — the USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald — had lengthy records of expired training certifications and some requirements had lapsed for more than two years, according to a new report obtained by CNN.

New data submitted by the Government Accountability Office in response to questions from Rep. Joe Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat, confirmed CNN’s previous reporting that both the McCain and Fitzgerald failed to fulfill key training qualifications ahead of the incidents that occurred this summer.

Two Connecticut sailors were killed in the separate collisions.

26-year-old Electronics Technician 3rd Class Dustin Louis Doyon, from Suffield , was killed on the USS John S. McCain .

Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T. Truong Huynh, 25, was from Oakville. He was killed when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant vessel.

The oldest of four siblings, his mother and the children moved to Connecticut in 2005. He joined the Navy in 2014 after taking a few classes at Naugatuck Valley Community College.

Seven of the McCain’s 22 certifications were expired as of June 26, 2017 — two of which had lapsed for more than two years, according to the report.

The crew had failed to renew its cruise missile qualification for 28 months and its surface fire support training for 26 months, the data reveals.

The Fitzgerald had 15 of 22 expired certifications as of the same date and most of its training requirements had lapsed for nearly a year.

In September, CNN first reported on the ships’ dismal training records and the latest GAO assessment continues to shed light on one factor that may have contributed to the two collisions with commercial ships in June and August, which killed 17 sailors.

Out of the “Tier Two” mission areas for certification that the GAO focused on during its September congressional testimony, 10 of 10 were expired on the Fitzgerald and six of 10 were expired for the McCain.

Expired certifications listed for the Fitzgerald in the latest GAO data included areas related to seamanship (10 months), communications (9 months), and several key warfare mission areas.

Courtney said in an interview that he was particularly concerned to learn of the length that some of the certifications had lapsed.“This is not some temporary coincidence or confluence of a momentary event — that list describes a chronic issue,” Courtney said. “I think it loops back to the fact that why are standards in the 7th Fleet not being maintained at the same level as other parts of the Navy in other parts of the world?”The issue of lapsed certifications is a problem that is currently being addressed, according to Navy spokesperson Cmdr. William Speaks.“While the investigation did not specifically note lapsed certifications as a causal factor for the collisions, we have recognized that it is a problem and have made changes to address that problem. The Navy is, and has been since the collisions occurred, taking actions to improve our readiness,” Speaks told CNN.“Through the Operational Pause, Comprehensive Review, Strategic Readiness Review and […]