Drawing on Deep Navy Experience, Congresswoman Elaine Luria Seeks Answers at Hearing on Recent Collisions

February 26, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – At a hearing focused on military readiness in the wake of sailor deaths due to recent collisions at sea, House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces Vice Chairwoman Elaine Luria (VA-02) today called for stronger action and accountability to better protect our Navy.

A 20-year Navy veteran who retired in 2017 at the rank of Commander, Congresswoman Luria questioned the effectiveness and urgency of corrective actions mandated after maritime accidents in the Western Pacific, including those of the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain. A combined 17 American sailors died in those collisions.

During the hearing, Congresswoman Luria asked two Navy Admirals whether the collisions had inspired the proper sense of urgency at the top levels of the U.S. military. She asserted the importance of “properly manning, training, and equipping our surface forces … to perform the most basic functions of seamanship and navigation.”

“Say you had a plane crash,” Congresswoman Luria said. “You had 17 people die in this plane crash, and you did an investigation and found out that the pilot didn’t know how to fly his plane. And then we did another report and we found out that most of our pilots didn’t know how to fly planes – do you feel that we’re really putting that same sense of urgency into the corrective actions in our surface force?”

In response, a witness at the hearing, Admiral John C. Aquilino, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said Navy leaders were taking the right actions, but he said that Congresswoman Luria’s “point is absolutely valid.”

Drawing on her experience as a former surface warfare officer, Congresswoman Luria then urged the Admirals to avoid future tragedies by returning their training focus to the basics of navigation.

“From my personal experience, my observation is that we’ve moved away from the absolute fundamentals behind the technology that we use,” Congresswoman Luria said. “ … We learned relative motion with a popsicle stick and a grease pencil on an SPA-25 radar repeater.”

At the hearing, Congresswoman Luria accepted Admiral Christopher W. Grady’s invitation to tour various training programs for the Navy.

After Congresswoman Luria spoke at the hearing, House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee Chairman John Garamendi (CA-03) made the following comment about freshman House Members in the hearing: “They come with an extraordinary set of experiences and [are] able to not only ask questions, but understand answers that many of us wouldn’t know.”

A full video of Rep. Luria’s remarks can be found here, beginning at 02:17:38.

Congresswoman Elaine Luria represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where she is the Vice Chair of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where she serves as Chair of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee.