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Wicker looks to reform Navy

photo courtesy Office of Roger Wicker, screenshot taken from video of Wicker on Senate floor, 7/28/2017

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, Chairman of the Senate Seapower Subcommittee, has introduced a proposal to help the Navy restore its surface force readiness. The “Surface Warfare Enhancement Act of 2018” addresses some of the root causes of declining readiness, which were outlined by Navy and military officials in the most recent Strategic Readiness Review and Comprehensive Review.

“In the wake of the tragic accidents involving the USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain, our commanders and sailors have been calling for meaningful reform,” said Senator Wicker. “Overextended and undermanned ships, overworked crews, fewer officers with naval mastery, and confusing chains of command have contributed to a decline in our naval power. My legislation – based on the Navy’s own recommendations – is specifically designed to address these and other challenges. Although I have confidence in the Navy’s leadership, I believe Congress needs to play an active role in helping them to succeed in this endeavor.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain is a cosponsor of the legislation and said improvements to the U.S. Navy are much needed.

“As we have seen too often in recent months, the significant shortcomings in our Navy’s readiness can have disastrous results,” said Senator McCain. “The ship collisions, including the USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain, degraded the capabilities of our fleet, cost hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, and – most importantly – took precious lives. The status quo is unacceptable. Congress must provide the funding and oversight required to keep our military safe in peace and effective in combat. I commend Senator Wicker for his leadership on this legislation to improve the readiness of our Navy, and look forward to working together on these initiatives as part of the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act.”

Highlights of the measure include:

  • Requiring the Navy to conduct a “clean sheet” review of its organization and chains-of-command
  • Putting a senior Senate-confirmed Navy civilian in charge of ship maintenance
  • Giving the Navy more time and flexibility to spend maintenance funds
  • Requiring the Navy to deliver realistic baseline projections of sailors’ workloads & ship maintenance
  • Calling for the Navy to keep records on watchstanding and training completed by surface warfare officers
  • Setting minimum at-sea and simulator-based training requirements to qualify for critical positions on the ships
  • Equalizing manning between ships homeported overseas and at home
  • Allowing the Navy and other military services some relief from onerous one-size-fits-all personnel management policies.

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