In fact, with the aim to improve ship-driving skills, the Navy has added classroom and simulator training for the Surface Warfare Officers who drive these ships, since 2017, when ship collisions resulted in the loss of 17 sailors’ lives as well as significant damage to Navy ships.

The Navy now plans to triple ship-driving training hours by 2021. Whatsoever, there is no plan to collect fleet-wide feedback on the quality of the new training or routinely test ship-driving skills yet. Such plans bring on the completion of two new simulator-based training facilities, scheduled for completion in June 2021 and in January 2023.

The US GAO found that

The Navy has relied on added skill checks conducted throughout a SWO's career to ensure that each SWO has basic ship-driving skills but has not put key processes and assessments in place to evaluate comprehensively the effectiveness of its changes to ship-driving training.

Further to this, Senior Navy officials say that it could take 16 years or more to know if the planned changes to SWO training are effective in increasing Commanding Officer ship-driving proficiency throughout the fleet and added that their intention is to closely monitor the implementation of changes to the training.

The US GAO further pinpoints that the Navy cannot assess the impact of investments on SWO ship-driving training in the short-run or whether further adjustments are necessary or Navy ships are being operated safely at sea if they don’t address the following challenges:

  • identify a method to solicit fleet-wide feedback on the quality of the increased ship-driving training received by SWOs
  • plan to routinely conduct ship-driving competency “spot checks” that were instituted after the 2017 collisions despite Navy inspectors having found concerns with more than 80% of SWOs' ship-driving skills
  • provide standard criteria to ship Commanding Officers for qualifying SWOs to drive ships, contributing to significant variance in ship-driving experience and competency levels across the fleet
  • develop a specific plan to analyze and use information from logbooks in which SWOs are to document ship-driving and related experience.

Specifically, the US GAO recommended that the Navy evaluates SWO training, including the collection and evaluation of fleet-wide feedback on the quality of training. Further to this, The Navy, which concurred with GAO's recommendations, can routinely conduct ship-driving competency assessments; provide standard criteria for qualifying ship drivers and develop a plan to analyze and use logbook information.

In late 2018, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has completed a review that identifies that, even if the US Navy has already taken initial steps to rebuild military readiness, years of sustained attention will be required in order to fully overcome the challenges.

It was then stated that the Navy has taken steps to address training shortfalls in the surface fleet but faces persistent maintenance and personnel challenges as it seeks to rebuild ship and submarine readiness. Furthermore, manning shortfalls and experience gaps continue to contribute to high sailor workload and are likely to continue through at least FY 2021.

Further to this, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report in 2018 on the challenges that the US flag deep sea fleet is facing. This includes increasing  operating costs and a declining number of qualified American mariners. According to the report, the US government supports the US-registered fleet, helping it meet national defense needs. However, it has had a negative effect on some non-defense government programs.

To explore more about the actions needed to evaluate the effectiveness of changes to surface warfare officer training, you can click on the PDF bellow.