WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen both D-Md.) today introduced the 1st Lt. Hugh Conor McDowell Safety in Armed Forces Equipment Act of 2021, legislation to establish a pilot program that authorizes the use of data recorders to improve the safety and effectiveness of military tactical vehicles. This legislation, named in honor of Marine 1LT Hugh Conor McDowell, a former Chestertown, Md. resident who was a victim of a training accident at Camp Pendleton, would help supervisors mitigate and prevent fatal training accidents and develop performance criteria and measurable standards for driver training programs. This legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Anthony Brown (D-Md.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.).
In the summer of 2019, following several reports of tactical vehicle rollover accidents and the tragic death of Marine 1LT Hugh Conor McDowell, the Senators requested that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct a study of non-combat deaths involving tactical vehicles. 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 GAO report found 123 soldier and marine fatalities and 300 accidents that resulted in permanent total disability or damages from 2010 to 2019.
“The safety of our troops on and off the battlefield must be paramount,” said Senator Cardin. “More efficient training based on real-use data should mean that fewer families will need to experience the heartbreak the McDowell family endured. I expect the results of this pilot program will improve safety across all branches of our military.”
“No family should have to suffer the pain and loss that the McDowell family has. We owe a debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who defend our country – and to their families – and we must do everything we can to prioritize their safety at home and abroad. By implementing these new, common-sense provisions, we can help improve safety in Army and Marine training to prevent avoidable fatal accidents. This legislation is an important step forward to better protect and train the members of our armed forces,” said Senator Van Hollen
“The safety of our young men and women in uniform, particularly during training, must be our top priority. Tactical vehicle accidents are preventable if we improve our training and ensure a culture of safety within the ranks,” said Congressman Brown. “Data recorders in tactical vehicles is a common sense solution to help alert supervisors of lapses in safety, ensure accountability and empower our services to make better decisions when, and if, another accident occurs. My heart continues to go out to families still grieving the loss of their sons and daughters. For their memories and the wellbeing of our service members let’s get this done.”
“Though the profession of arms will always be accompanied by some inherent dangers, we should do our utmost to minimize the risks faced by our men and women in uniform. Preventable accidents are just that- preventable. By equipping tactical vehicles with black boxes capable of recording key datapoints, we give Army and Marine Corps commanders the data they need to better inform their decision-making processes and training in order to prevent future tactical vehicle accidents,” said Congressman Wittman.
The 1st Lt. Hugh Conor McDowell Safety in Armed Forces Equipment Act of 2021 would:
- Create a pilot program to establish the installation and maintenance of a data recorder on Army and Marine Corps tactical vehicles
- Enable the identification of near-miss accidents and automated potential hazards that would otherwise go undetected, creating a safer environment and more ready force.
- Incorporate assessments of individual driver proficiency to allow for tailored training to ensure our service members are ready for their missions.
- Establish a database with telemetry data, driver data, and event data for more consistent implementation of safety programs across installations and units.
- Require installation commanders to incorporate the actionable data sets and statistics into safety programs.
The full text of the bill is available here.