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House panel to hold hearing on Navy warship collisions

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House panel to hold hearing on Navy warship collisions

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the recent spate of deadly warship collisions when Congress returns from summer recess, the committee announced Wednesday.

The Sept. 7 hearing will feature testimony from Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, commander of Naval Surface Forces, and John Pendleton, director of defense force structure and readiness issues at the Government Accountability Office, according to a committee press release.

Early Monday, the guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a Liberian-flagged oil tanker east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. Ten sailors went missing.

On Tuesday, the Navy said it found the remains of “a number” of them and on Wednesday said the search area was being expanded to find the rest of the missing.

The McCain crash came about two months after the USS Fitzgerald destroyer collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship southwest of Japan. Seven sailors were killed in the Fitzgerald crash.

On Wednesday, the Navy announced it fired Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the 7th Fleet, which includes both ships. Aucion was relieved of his command “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command,” according to a press release.

The Armed Services hearing will look at readiness issues as an underlying cause of the crashes, according to its title, “Navy Readiness – Underlying Problems Associated with the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain.”

Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) has long warned about a so-called readiness crisis caused by years of budget constraints and has recently said the warship collisions are a sign of the problem.

“We ask a lot of our men and women in the Navy. The time they spend at sea is increasing, while their ships age and their funding gets cut. These are just the conditions that can lead to an increase in the kinds of accidents we are witnessing,” Thornberry said in a statement Monday.

“Congress has a duty to provide our sailors with the additional resources they so clearly need, and to do so immediately. To do any less, while these sailors are doing so much for us, would be immoral.”

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