In the coming days, America will learn more about the separate collisions involving the U.S. Navy destroyers, the USS Fitzgerald and the USS McCain.
Investigations are in progress on both incidents. Navigational and weather charts will be studied, tracks will be replotted, logs will be analyzed, crewmembers will be interviewed and records of training and qualification will be examined—especially as they pertain to personnel on watch during the incidents. Subject-matter experts will do all this and meticulously compile their data. The final report will include findings, opinions and recommendations. This is how it should work—focused, unbiased and apolitical.
Authorities, composed of current and former commanding officers, will remind us publicly about “the cruel business of accountability” and remind themselves privately that “there but for the grace of God, go I.”
I think these thoughts as a former destroyer captain, having been on both sides of investigations. But I also reflect on my time as a shipbuilding program coordinator in the Pentagon, a staff officer on two major afloat staffs and as a Military Analyst after my Navy retirement. Here are my other thoughts:
For those waiting for the results of the actual investigations, my advice is: Be patient. There can be no punishment meted out to a commanding officer greater than living with the loss of one or more crewmembers in peacetime conditions. But while you are being patient with the investigations, be totally impatient with the system and demand the same level of impatience from Congress.
Eugene A. Razzetti, a retired U.S. Navy captain, is a management consultant military analyst and certification auditor. He is the author of five management books, numerous articles and analytical reports, and has served on the advisory boards of two business schools.
The header image on this page shows the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain as it conducts a patrol in the South China Sea, Jan. 22, 2017, while supporting security efforts in the region. The ship was involved in a collision with a merchant vessel east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 20, 2017. U.S. Navy photo by Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class James Vazquez. The image has been digitally modified to fit the dimensions of this page.
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