WASHINGTON – The Government Accountability Office opened an investigation as a result of at least eight Army and Marine Corps training deaths that occurred so far in 2019, GAO and House Armed Services Committee officials confirmed Thursday.
The investigation was jointly requested by the House Armed Services Committee and the House Oversight Committee after six members of Congress took up the issue, including the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.
Concerns surrounding the high number of training deaths prompted the investigation, according to the GAO, which calls into question Army and Marine Corps safety standards, ground combat vehicle availability and mission capability, and steps taken by the branches to mitigate training risks, among other issues.
Pfc. Christian Bautista was manning the turret on the enhanced armament carrier version of the Humvee at roughly 7:15 a.m. Sunday when the accident occurred.
On Monday, three soldiers were killed and three others were injured during a training exercise when their vehicle rolled off of a bridge and landed upside down near Fort Stewart, Georgia. The following day, a Marine was killed in a Humvee accident at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California.
Four other servicemen were killed in similar training accidents between May and August of this year.
The GAO said the review will answer the following questions:
What are the trends in noncombat mishaps for ground combat vehicles used by the Army and Marine Corps, and to what extent have the Army and Marine Corps reported causal factors contributing to the mishaps?
- To what extent have Army and Marine Corps personnel who operate ground combat vehicles received the recommended number of training hours to meet operational and safety standards?
- To what extent have factors, such as ground combat vehicle availability and mission capable rates, affected the ability of Army and Marine Corps units to meet training requirements or increased safety risks?
- To what extent do the Army and Marine Corps inspect training ranges and maneuver areas to identify potential hazards and communicate the results of the inspections to manage risks?
- To what extent have the Army and Marine Corps taken actions to enhance the training, readiness and safety of ground combat vehicle operations, and reduce or prevent non-combat casualties related to the use of these vehicles?
To conduct the investigation, “we will talk to various offices in the Army and the Marine Corps, including folks that conduct training and oversee safety and analysis,” said Cary Russell, a director in the GAO’s defense capabilities and management team.
Russel said the investigative team will also go into the field to visit various units, ranges and training centers, but that it is too early to determine how many and which locations will be visited.
The GAO has sent a letter to the Department of Defense announcing the audit and will send the DoD its report for a comment period. The report will be made public following the comment period.