July 14, 2021

Senators, House Members Release GAO Report Detailing Key Causes of Military Rollover Accidents

Report, requested by lawmakers, includes nine recommendations to mitigate and prevent fatal training accidents

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman Anthony G. Brown, Senator Chris Van Hollen and Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (All-D-Md.), as well as Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.-12) and Chairman of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee John Garamendi (D-Calif.-3) announced Wednesday the results of a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on steps the U.S. Army and Marine Corps should take to “mitigate and prevent” fatal training accidents.

In the summer of 2019, the lawmakers requested GAO conduct a study of non-combat deaths involving tactical vehicles after the tragic death of Marine 1LT Hugh Conor McDowell, a former Chestertown (Md.) resident who was a victim of a training rollover at Camp Pendleton. McDowell was one of six killed and nine injured in a two-month period that year. In response, GAO conducted a review of 10 years of Army and Marine Corps training mishaps involving combat vehicles, as well as training procedures and safety standards. The results released today showed an troubling pattern of deaths and injuries despite the Army and Marine Corps having “established practices to mitigate and prevent tactical vehicle accidents.” GAO found that “units did not consistently implement these practices,” leading to increased incidents caused by “driver inattentiveness, lapses in supervision, and lack of training.”

Responding to the GAO report, the lawmakers said: “Training exercises are supposed to safely prepare our soldiers and Marines for whatever may await them on the battlefield. The lack of consistent training year after year has caused the tragic loss of life and irreparable damage, particularly for the victims of these accidents and the families of those lost. The Army and Marine Corps must take necessary action to implement the GAO recommendations and ensure all aspects of training, including training for drivers, surveillance of training grounds, and oversight meet the highest standards of preparedness and employ best practices in all areas.”

GAO: Number of Army and Marine Corps Class A and B Tactical Vehicle Accidents and Resulting Military Deaths, Fiscal Years 2010 through 2019

Tactical Vehicle Accidents GAO

GAO Recommendations

1.     Target Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Army
Recommendation:
The Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the Chief of Staff of the Army, should ensure that the Army develop more clearly defined roles for vehicle commanders and establish mechanisms and procedures for tactical vehicle risk management to be used by first-line supervisors such as vehicle commanders.

2.     Target Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy
Recommendation:
The Secretary of the Navy, in consultation with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, should ensure that the Marine Corps develop more clearly defined roles for vehicle commanders and establish mechanisms and procedures for tactical vehicle risk management to be used by first-line supervisors such as vehicle commanders.

3.     Target Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Army
Recommendation:
The Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the Chief of Staff of the Army, should evaluate the number of personnel within operational units who are responsible for tactical vehicle safety and determine if these units are appropriately staffed, or if any adjustments are needed to workloads or resource levels to implement operational unit ground-safety programs.

 4.     Target Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

Recommendation:
The Secretary of the Navy, in consultation with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, should evaluate the number of personnel within operational units who are responsible for tactical vehicle safety and determine if these units are appropriately staffed, or if any adjustments are needed to workloads or resource levels to implement operational unit ground-safety programs.

 5.     Target Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

Recommendation:
The Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the Chief of Staff of the Army, should ensure that tactical vehicle driver training programs—to include licensing, unit, and follow-on training—have a well-defined process with specific performance criteria and measurable standards to identify driver skills and experience under diverse conditions.

 6.     Target Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

Recommendation:
The Secretary of the Navy, in consultation with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, should ensure that tactical vehicle driver training programs—to include licensing, unit, and follow-on training—have a well-defined process with specific performance criteria and measureable standards to identify driver skills and experience under diverse conditions.

 7.     Target Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

Recommendation:
The Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the Chief of Staff of the Army, should ensure that the Army evaluates the extent to which its ranges and training areas are fulfilling responsibilities to identify and communicate hazards to units. If the responsibilities are not being carried out, the Army should determine if existing workarounds are adequate or if additional resources should be applied to fulfill these responsibilities.

 8.     Target Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

Recommendation:
The Secretary of the Navy, in consultation with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, should ensure that the Marine Corps evaluates the extent to which its ranges and training areas are fulfilling responsibilities to identify and communicate hazards to units. If the responsibilities are not being carried out, the Marine Corps should determine if existing workarounds are adequate or if additional resources should be applied to fulfill these responsibilities.

9.     Target Agency: Department of Defense

Recommendation:
The Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the Chief of Staff of the Army, and the Secretary of the Navy, in consultation with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, should establish a formal collaboration forum among Army and Marine Corps range officials that allows them to share methods for identifying and communicating hazards to units with each other on a regular basis.

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