US Republican Senator John McCain says military cuts over the past years were the primary reason behind the recent deadly “accidents” involving US Navy warships USS John McCain and USS Fitzgerald in Asia.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has revealed that American sailors on board lacked critical training in both collisions, which killed a total of 17 sailors from the US Navy’s Japan-based 7th Fleet.
"Whenever you cut defense capabilities, the first thing that goes is the training and the readiness, because that's easy enough to cancel," McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, told CBS on Sunday.
“When you really look at how much time they have at actual training and readiness, it’s continued to shrink,” McCain said. “We have accident after accident after accident. We are killing more Americans in uniform in training than we are in engagement with the enemy. That’s not acceptable.”
Last month, the USS McCain guided-missile destroyer, named after the Arizona senator’s father and grandfather, collided with a Liberian-flagged oil tanker near the entrance to the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. The collision killed 10 sailors and injured five others.
The incident came nearly two months after seven US Navy sailors lost their lives on board the USS Fitzgerald, another guided-missile destroyer of the 7th Fleet, as the warship crashed into a container ship south of Japan.
The GAO concluded in a report that the USS Fitzgerald’s training certification for 10 out of 10 key warfare mission areas in June had all expired, according to CNN. The USS McCain had a slightly better record by letting six out of 10 certifications lapse.
The report also found that the expired training certifications for the 11 US Navy cruisers and destroyers in Japan had risen five-fold from 7 percent in January 2015 to 37 percent in June.
US Air Force officials have also blamed the increasing number of crashes and mishaps involving military aircraft on what they say is a lack of budget that leads to inadequate training of airmen.
Donald Trump, Obama’s successor, has already taken the first steps to increase military spending. His $603 billion military budget which was passed by Congress in July, exceeds the limit set in the 2011 Budget Control Act by about $72 billion.