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Media Availability with Admiral John Richardson, U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations

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Aug. 21, 2017 PRINT | E-MAIL
ADMIRAL JOHN RICHARDSON: All right, well, listen, thanks, everybody, for allowing me to come on down and spend some time with you.  

First and foremost, I just want to convey, again, that our thoughts and prayers are with the crew of the John S. McCain and their families, as we work together through this very, very difficult time.  And so they continue to get assistance there in Singapore.

The best, you know, updates are coming from theater, from the Seventh Fleet.  And so I'm going to probably defer any of those types of questions to them, because they're that much closer to the action.  And so what I'd like to do is talk about a little bit of the broader context, consistent with the video that I posted this morning about our response, you know, sort of broader Navy response.

And so this is, you know, obviously an extremely serious incident, and is the second such incident in a very short period of time, with -- inside of three months, and, you know, very similar as well, and is the last of a series of incidents in the Pacific Fleet in particular.  And that gives great cause for concern that there is something out there that we're not getting at.  

And so, conferred with senior leadership in the Navy, and in the department, and we are taking a much more aggressive stance at this point to get to that level of understanding.  That stance really has two main efforts.  One is, you know, a very timely effort, an operational pause in the near-term that I've directed our fleet commanders to execute.  

The emphasis of that is really to take a look at, you know, the fundamentals, you know,  at the unit and team level, to make sure that we're not overlooking anything, really, in terms of just what I would call the blocking and tackling, you know, the basic seamanship, airmanship, those sorts of things -- teamwork, how we do business on the bridge, you know, the fundamentals.  

And so I've directed each of the fleet commanders to put together a plan, and I'm going to leave them some freedom to get at how they address those fundamentals, because each one of those commanders is wrestling with a different situation, to be honest, in their geographic area.  We want to do this pretty briskly.  You know, my direction will be about a week, should -- we should execute all of this, and then we'll roll those up, and capture any lessons learned, and roll those back out.

Then there's the longer term and review that I've asked Admiral Davidson down at Fleet Forces Command to undertake.  This will be a broader effort, looking at a number of things, one being, OK, what is the situation out in Japan with our forward-deployed -- deployed Naval forces out there?  How are they executing their business?  I just want to understand that more deeply in terms of training, generating that readiness that we ask them to achieve, and then, you know, certifying that readiness, making sure that it meets standards.

That'll have, you know, a lot of different aspects to it, from hey, what have the trends been?  Who's monitoring those trends?  What is the operational tempo of those units?  There are a lot of different factors that go towards painting that full-readiness picture, which would include maintenance, equipment, personnel, you know, those sorts of things.  And so that will be one aspect of this.

And then the other is even a little bit broader.  I'm going to ask Admiral Davidson to take a look at, you know, what is our process for, I guess, developing, you know, surface warfare community, you know, ship drivers?  Could that be improved?  As I said in the video, I want this to be a pretty broad effort in terms of diversity.  And so I don't want to be, you know, myopic in terms of the composition of that team.  I want to bring in everybody who can contribute a perspective.

And so we'll look to have membership, certainly broadly across the Navy; different Navy communities, officer and enlisted.  But I want to go outside the Navy as well, to other services, and even outside the military to make sure that we are being as broad as possible.  So I would envision, you know, bringing in some industry experts, those sorts of things that can help us work through this.

A little bit more to follow in terms of the details on that, but that's roughly how I see it.  And then certainly, the offices of the Navy Inspector General and the Navy Safety Center also at Admiral Davidson's disposal.

And then what I also would like is that while this won't be done in the next week -- there's just not enough time to get at the depth that I want to -- neither will this go on for too long.  We need to get at this, get it done in, you know, the number of -- few number of months' timeframe, so that we can get the lessons learned, act on those root causes, and move forward, improving the way we do business.

And so that's really where we stand right now.  Again, you know, my hope is that we will learn, continue to improve in the short term, validating that we are, you know, sound on the fundamentals, and if not, then we'll take action to correct that, and then look at broader, more systemic issues that we may find through this comprehensive review.

I'll close where I began, which is, I'm sure you all felt the same way that I did:  just devastated, and really, just -- just heartbroken, having to deal with this again.  So, I'm ready to take your questions.  I'm just going to take a few, because I don't really think I've got much more.  Jackie, you want to --

STAFF:  We've got just time for a few.  Tony?

Q:  Sir.

ADM. RICHARDSON:  Yeah.

Q:  What do you envision industry might be able to offer during the review period?

ADM. RICHARDSON:  You know, our sailors are always operating systems, right?  And those systems are provided by our industrial partners, and so we want to make sure that we're looking, you know, as comprehensively as possible, in terms of optimizing or improving the way that we interface with those systems.

STAFF:  Hans?

Q:  Could you clarify how long that operational pause is?  That -- that wasn't the week that you were talking about.  You want that done within the week.

ADM. RICHARDSON:  That's right.  It's not the actual duration of the pause, you know, I would envision one to two days, is kind of my -- but again, I'm going to leave the specifics to the fleet commanders.  I'm not going to over-determine how they should get at this.  I'm going to provide some guidance in those things that we do want to address, and leave it to them in terms of the specifics.

STAFF:  Lucas?

Q:  Are you saying -- (inaudible) -- that junior officers are getting enough training right now aboard these ships, or -- and before they get to these ships?

ADM. RICHARDSON:  Yeah, I think that'll be the fruits of this comprehensive review in particular, and so we'll get at a more comprehensive answer to that.

Q:  But today, Admiral, are you satisfied that these young officers are getting the training?

ADM. RICHARDSON:  I'm going to leave that for that review, OK?

STAFF:  Courtney?

STAFF:  Last question.

Q:  Hi.  I know it's very early in this process, but at this point do you have any reason to believe that this collision was intentional on either side, that there was any intentional --

ADM. RICHARDSON:  Yeah, no, that's certainly something we are giving full consideration to, but we have no indication that that's the case yet.  But we're looking at every possibility, so we're not leaving anything to chance there.

Q:  Including cyber sabotage?

ADM. RICHARDSON:  The whole thing, right.  We're -- we're taking a look at all of that, as we did with Fitzgerald as well, so -- 

STAFF:  OK.

Q:  Does the pause begin now?  Is it -- is it --

Q:  What is the pause?

Q:  Is it in -- yeah, exactly.  Does it begin now, and --

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  What is an operational pause, sir?

ADM. RICHARDSON:  OK.

Q:  What does it mean?

ADM. RICHARDSON:  OK.  An operational pause is a time where you sort of stand down.  You devote some time at the command level, where you sit down, you know, those teams, and those teams will be dynamic, depending upon what sort of command that you're talking about.  And you do a, you know, an assessment and review of those sort of fundamental practices that are, sort of, you know, fundamental, I guess,  to safe and effective operations.  

And so, you know, this is not unusual.  This is not the first time that we've done something like this.  And so what you want to do is you want to make sure that you've defined a, you know, kind of a measurable end state to these things, so you're just not, you know, spinning your wheels during them.  And so that's what I'll be looking from the fleet commanders to determine, OK?

Q:  Is there any kind of operational impact, like no ships going out, or going, or --

ADM. RICHARDSON:  We'll leave it to the fleet commanders.

Q:  I see.  OK.  Thank you.

STAFF:  All right, guys.  That's all we have time for.

ADM. RICHARDSON:  All right.

STAFF:  I'm -- I'm sorry we can't go a little longer.

ADM. RICHARDSON:  All right.  Thanks very much for your time.

STAFF:  Sir, thank you for your time.

ADM. RICHARDSON:  Yup.  We'll keep you posted as this develops.

STAFF:  Thanks, Admiral.

Q:  Thank you, sir.