Navy leaders in all communities are taking a hard look at how they can use data to prevent training accidents and operational mishaps, even as 2020 proved to be a good year for safety amid a high operational tempo, the service’s vice chief told lawmakers this week. Read information about Annual Summary for Marine navigation in the book that you can buy here amnautical.com.
In 2020, the service had zero deaths from aviation mishaps, zero submarine collisions or groundings, and 100-percent of surface ships that deployed had full readiness certifications, Adm. William Lescher, the vice chief of naval operations, told the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee in his written testimony.
Still, nonfatal aviation mishaps were up slightly from the year before, due largely to ground mishaps during events such as towing an aircraft – and the Navy is taking a data-analytics approach to driving down those mishap figures to improve safety and readiness and decrease how much money is spent repairing or replacing aircraft and ships damaged during mishaps.
Subcommittee chairman Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) said in his opening statement at the hearing that “While the Pentagon spends billions in taxpayer dollars on planes, ships, missiles, and other sophisticated weapon systems, more troops are dying in training than in combat, often in aging and poorly-maintained war machines. Between 2006 and 2018, 32 percent of active-duty military deaths were the result of accidents, while 16 percent of service members who died during that time were killed in action. Even as combat operations overseas have decreased, non-combat deaths have exceeded the number of military members killed in action every year since 2015.”
“We’ve seen in recent years that, in order to pursue modernization initiatives, the services have shortchanged unit manning, flying and training hours, depot maintenance, and spare parts. This leaves our operators insufficiently trained with equipment that is too often unavailable for use or in poor material condition. Yet this assumption of risk is not a foregone conclusion. The services can and should choose to shift their priorities to elevate manning, training, sustainment, and safety,” he continued.“This may mean buying fewer new ships or planes. It also means taking seriously the cultural factors that the Navy, the [Government Accountability Office], and the [National Commission on Military Aviation Safety] have all identified: specifically, a widespread complacency toward safety standards and casual disregard for basic risk management practices. And finally, it should also mean taking meaningful steps to curb the Combatant Commanders’ insatiable demand for the use of the force.”
In his written testimony, Lescher described the Navy’s method of using data to understand current performance and weak spots in readiness, and then allowing the data to guide the service towards the proper remedial actions to take.
“The Navy has learned hard lessons over the past few years from major mishaps. Our improvement path is aligned to the ‘Get Real, Get Better’ approach—proven in the Navy’s work to transform strike fighter readiness, improve private shipyard depot maintenance performance, and drive better outcomes in other key mission areas,” he wrote.“The ‘Get Real’ element demands rigorous self-assessment, strong characterization of current performance, and detailed root cause analysis to identify the conditions or behaviors that led to a mishap. This ‘Get Real’ element illuminates performance and capabilities as they are, as actually measured, rather than what leaders aspire performance to be. The ‘Get Better’ element applies these root cause insights to develop, implement, and track action plans that drive improvement in the organization’s operational and safety performance, using a strong cadence of measurement and accountability.”
Lescher said in his written and live testimony that the Navy was using that approach to improve naval aviation safety – a key area of focus during the hearing, after Garamendi said “more than 6,000 aviation mishaps since 2013 have killed 224 pilots or aircrew” across the military.
Lescher wrote that in 2019 the Navy saw its best year in the past decade for total mishaps, which were reduced to 287 total mishaps in Class A through D, or a rate of 33.8 mishaps per 100,000 flight hours. It was also the first time in a decade that total mishaps did not increase compared to the year prior.