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'We Don't Need to Lose People' to Accidents, DoD Personnel Chief Asserts

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2003 – Aviation and other types of serious accidents across DoD have gone up and the department's senior leaders have vowed to do something about it.

"Most accidents are preventable accidents," David S.C. Chu, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, declared here in a June 27 interview.

Chu, who's leading DoD's accident prevention effort, pointed to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's May 19, 2003, memorandum on the subject.

In his memo, Rumsfeld observed: "World-class organizations do not tolerate preventable accidents. Our accident rates have increased recently, and we need to turn this situation around."

The secretary then challenged DoD's military and civilian leaders and rank and file "to reduce the number of mishaps and accident rates by at least 50 percent in the next two years."

These goals "are achievable," Rumsfeld continued, "and will directly increase our operational readiness. We owe no less to the men and women who defend our nation."

Military aviation accidents, Chu observed, have gone up. In fact, a recent DoD news release noted that 82 personnel died in aviation mishaps in fiscal 2002 that's 17 more fatalities than the previous year.

Some accident prevention involves using common sense, Chu observed. For example, he noted, sailors should know it's an unsafe practice to run across an aircraft carrier's wet deck.

Chu also pointed out the department's concern about fatalities and injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents involving military and civilians, on and off duty. Not drinking and driving, and using seat belts, he observed, can greatly reduce deaths and injuries caused from auto crashes.

Military and civilians across DoD should know that the main goal of the accident-reduction campaign is to safeguard lives and prevent injuries, Chu pointed out, instead of focusing on losses of equipment.

People, he asserted, come first.

Mishaps kill and maim DoD's people, Chu observed, thereby making the prevention of accidents "a serious issue." Accidents, he continued, also negatively impact military operations through equipment damage and time-consuming investigations.

A DoD safety council -- comprised of senior military and civilian leaders -- has been formed, Chu noted. That group, he said, is studying methods, processes and strategies including the implementation of best business practices -- to reduce accident rates across the department in line with meeting the secretary's goals.

Also, service member and civilian ideas on accident prevention to include observations about dangerous types of equipment and gear -- will be sought out and considered.

The defense secretary's desire to implement better accident-prevention practices across DoD has been a top goal since he took office, Chu remarked. He noted that he and the secretary want to bring about a sea change in the department's attitude and culture regarding accident prevention.

"We don't need to lose people or to get people hurt these accidents are preventable," Chu emphasized, adding, "our real goal is getting preventable accidents to zero."

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