San Diego Congressman Duncan Hunter wants answers after deadly Navy crashes

Rep. Hunter to question Naval leaders Thursday
Congress wants answers after deadly Navy crashes
Posted at 5:00 AM, Sep 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-07 12:03:29-04

The Navy's Pacific Fleet will be under the congressional microscope Thursday when several Navy leaders will be called to testify at a hearing about two crashes that killed 17 sailors over the summer.

The hearing, in front of the House Armed Services Readiness and Seapower subcomittees, will start at 2 p.m. Eastern time on Capitol Hill.

San Diego Rep. Duncan Hunter, who serves on both subcommittees, told 10News he has a handful of questions he wants answered.

"One, were there human errors, was this dereliction of duty?" he asked. "Two, could there be better training? And three, is it a software problem? How did the radar not pick up ships twice now?"

The first crash happened June 17, when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant ship near Japan. Seven sailors, including two who call San Diego home, died in the crash.

On August 21, the USS John S. McCain collided with a ship near the Strait of Malacca, killing 10 sailors.

Two days after the second crash, the Navy dismissed the Commander of the 7th Fleet, Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, questioning his "ability to command" the fleet.

The Navy also ordered a 24 hour operational pause of all ships after the second crash, and has started a full investigation.

Now, Congress wants answers.

"None of the services like to admit they're wrong," Hunter said. "But in a case like this, where sailors lost their lives, I think the Navy's going to be happy to tell us what's going on and how it happened. I think the last thing they need is some kind of coverup."

Still, it's likely the Navy won't have any answers to give at Thursday's hearing.

"The irony is that this has happened before," said Ret. Vice Admiral Peter Daly.

He said the Navy has to finish its investigation before it can give any definitive answers to congress.

"They'll say they want to get to the bottom of this, and the Navy will say let us do our investigation, and they'll say, okay, but what happened?" Daily said. "In the end, it's about time. Even though many people have speculated about the cause, the worst thing the Navy can do is dive in and shut out other possibilities."