Battleships: Issues Arising From the Explosion Aboard the U.S.S. Iowa

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-11-08.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                    United States General Accounting Office

For Release         EMY'IESHIPS: Issues Arisinq    From the Esrplosion
on Delivery         Aboard the USS Iwa
10:00 a.m. EST
Novdr     8, 1990

                    Statement of
                    Frank C. Conahan
                    Assistant Caxptroller General
                    National Security and International   Affairs
                    Before the
                    Sukcxnnittee on Fizontic Stabilization
                    COmnittee on Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs
                    House of Representatives

                                                                    GAO Form 160 (12/87)
                         ? f
Madame Chair                and Members of the Subcommittee:

I am pleased                to appear         before       the    Subcommittee           today      to discuss           the
results        of our work pertaining                       to the April           19,    1989,      explosion
aboard      the U.S.S.               Iowa.

Our     work     was based on requests                      received       from you;         the         Honorable       Sam
Nunn,      Chairman,            Senate        Armed Services            Committee         and the          Honorable
Howard M. Metzenbaum,                        United      States      Senate.        We were asked                to (1)
conduct        an independent                 investigation            of the      Navy's        technical
analysis         of likely            causes       of the explosion,               (2) examine             the
serviceability                and safety          of the equipment,                (3) examine             manning       and
training         issues         raised        by the       Iowa's     Commanding          Officer          after     the
explosion,            and      (4)    review       the battleships'               employment             plans     and
mission.          We asked            the Department              of Energy's        Sandia         National
LabOKatOKleS                to conduct         a technical           analysis       and review             the
adequacy         of     the Navy's            technical          investigation.             We addressed             the
other      issues.

We have sent                a draft      report          to the Secretary           of Defense             for     comment
and we will            discuss         that      draft      today.        However,        as you know,
because        of Sandia's             findings,           the Navy has reopened                   its
investigation                into     the     causes       of the explosion.                That
investigation,                with     Sandia's           involvement,          is ongoing          and we are
monitoring            it.

The four          ships         of the        Iowa class         are the         last          battleships            built        by
the United             States.             They were originally                  commissioned                between          1943
and 1944 and saw active                           service      during         both      World       War II           and the
Korean         conflict.             All      four     battleships            were decommissioned                      by 1958.
Except         fOK     the U.S.S.             New Jersey's            short       recommissioning                    during        the
Vietnam         conflict,            battleships             remained          inactive           for     almost       a
quarter         of a century.

All     four      battleships               were recommissioned                   between          1982 and 1988.
The ships'             principal            armament,         as built,          was a main battery                         of nine
16-inch         guns and twenty                    5-inch     guns.           The ships           are heavily
armored.               During        recommissioning,                  four     of the          S-inch        gun mounts
were        removed         and more modern weapons                       systems          were         installed.            These
included          provisions               for     32 Tomahawk cruise                 missiles            and 16        HaKpOOn

missiles.              The battleships'                    missions       are built              around       their
capability             to attack            a variety         of targets--both                    other       ships         and
targets          ashore.            The battleships,                  as recommissioned,                    require           a crew
of about             1,500      personnel.             Because         of budget           constraints,                the
Secretary             of Defense            directed         that      the     Navy     decommission                  two
battleships                during      fiscal         year     1991.          The Navy selected                  the        Iowa
and the New Jersey.

On April             19,     1989,     five        bags of propellant                   ignited          in the open
chamber          of the         center           16-inch     gun of turret                II     during       a gunnery

exercise.               The 47 sailors                in the turret                  died          in the ensuing            blast
and     fire.           In its        investigatron              of the             incident,           the     Navy found
that      the     explosion            was most probably                      the         result       of a deliberate                 act
and not          of a defect                  in the gun or propellant.


Before          discussing            in detail             our findings                  in each of the areas
reviewed,           let        me briefly           summarize.

At our          request,          Sandia         National        Laboratories                      investigated            several
aspects          of the         lncldent           and concluded                   that      there      was a plausible
aiternate              scenario        to the Navy’s                     finding          of an intentional                 act.        As
a result,              the     Navy initially                halted          all      firings          of the       16-inch           guns
and,      with         Sandia’s        participation,                     is doing           further          testing.           In
August,          when the Navy deployed                         the battleship                      Wisconsin           to the
Persian          Gulf         area,      it     sought       to lift           the ban on 16-inch                       gun firing.
By using          a different                  propellant            configuration                  and taking           other
management              actions          the     Navy believed                 the ban could               be lifted.
Sandia          agreed         that      the new propellant                        configuration               made the chance
for     an accidental                 explosion             highly         remote          and the ban on the
Wisconsin              has been lifted.

Sandia          also         investigated            the Navy’s              theory          of a deliberate                act but
could       neither            confirm          nor deny the Navy’s                        conclusion            that      foreign
material           residue            in the       rotating              band of the projectile                          removed

from      the     gun was evidence                     of a chemically             activated           detonator
device.           The reopened                 investigation            is again       exploring            this      issue.

While        we did       not       find       evidence         of any systemic               serviceability              or
safety        problems           aboard         the battleships,              we did         find      systemic
problems          with        the    adequacy           of supervisory             personnel           levels,
including             gunners        mates       and fire         controlmen,           and problems               with       Navy
training          for      16-inch          gun operations.                Also,      the Navy's
investigation                 of the        incident        found       some safety            violations           aboard
the      Iowa and a subsequent                         investigation          by the Navy's               Inspector
General          confirmed           that       improperly           approved       experimentation                 of
gunpowder             and projectile               combinations            was being           conducted           on the
day of          the     accident           and had also           been conducted               before.

Finally,          as the world                 security         environment         changes,           because        ships
other        than       battleships             have an excellent                 strike       warfare         capability,
and because              of     limits         on the battleships'                 ability          to support            a
large        scale       amphibious             assault;         the     Navy's      need to maintain                 the
battleships              is questionable.                   The planned            decommissioning                 of two
battleships,               including            the     Iowa,     also     raises          questions         about        the
usefulness              and supportability                  of the other             two ships           in the active

Budget          constraints              led     to the decision             to decommission                 two of the
four        battleships.                 The battleships               are costly            to maintain           and
difficult             to man and,              until      the    ships'     unique           contributions            in the

Middle      East        can be evaluated,                      mission-related                       questions             ctincerning
their      contr ibut Ions              remain.

For these           reasons,           we are       recommending                     that         the     Secretary             of
Defense        direct          the     Secretary              of the          Navy to reevaluate                          the
battleships'             utility          in the             light         of known constraints                           and
limitations             and,       unless        current              Middle         East         operations              convincingly
demonstrate             their         unique      utility,                 direct          that      the Secretary                    of the
Navy decommission                     the Missouri                   and the Wisconsin.


At our request,                 Sandia          concentrated                  on two areas.                      First,          Sandia
explored           whether           the Navy's              finding          of foreign                 material          in the
rotating           band of           the projectile                   lodged         in the             Iowa's      gun and the
Navy's        analysis          of such material                       indicated              that        an improvised
cnemical           detonator           ignited          the powder                  and caused              the     explosion.                 A
major      constraint                to Sandia's              analysis              was that,             after       the        Navy's
and the FBI's              analyses,             there          was no longer                     any part          of the            Iowa's
rotating           band that           had not         been subjected                       to an analysis                   or
examination.               However,             Sandia          obtained             parts         of the         band to
examine        and was able               to build              upon the Navy's                      analysis.                  Sandia      is
confident           in its           findings        that            the     foreign          materials             found            in
turret        II    on the           Iowa were consistent                           with      the nominal                 levels          found
throughout           gun turrets                and the maritime                       environment.                   For example,
calcium--a           constituent                of the          Navy's          postulated                detonator--was

readily            detectable               in both       turrets         I and II        on the           Iowa     dn3         in
turrets            on the       battleships               New     Jersey       and Wisconsin.                     Therefore,
Sandra         could         not      corroborate            the      Navy’s        finding         that        such foreign
material            was      evidence           of a detonator.

Second,            Sandia       explored              whether       the explosion               could       have been
caused         by an accidental                       ignition        of the powder.                   Sandia       agreed
with         the    Navy’s          incident           investigation            report          that       the powder                was
stable         and confirmed                  that       a significant              overram         of     the powder
charge         occurred.                   However,       Sandia        questioned            the      Navy’s       statement

that         impact        and compression                  of the powder              charge          were not
contributing                  factors         to the        Iowa        incident.

Sandia         believes             they      have       identified          a plausible               alternative
explanation                of the           cause      of the explosion.                  According               to Sandia,
the        forces         generated           by overramming                the powder           charge           against            the
base of the projectile                            can fracture              pellets       in the bags’                    top    or
“tr    lm”     layer.              The fractured             pellets         can release               burning            particles
that         may     ignite         the black            powder         in the adjacent                powder        bag and,
in     turn,         ignite         the      whole       charge.           Sandia      believes            that      the
probability                of      this      process        occurring          depends          on the          speed of the
overram            and the          number of pellets                    in the trim            layer.

Suggestion                of a high-speed                 overram          comes from           (1)      the      Navy’s
incident             investigation                report,          which     noted       that       the     rammerman was
conducting                his      first       live      firing         and that       there        were reports                     of an

unidentified               problem          with         the center         gun immediately                          befort?     the
explosion,              and (2)           Sandia's         postulation              that          the     car        which      brings
the powder               to the      gun room bad not                     returned,               which         it     normaLly
couid       have during              the     time         of a normal            speed ram,                   indicating             that
whatever           occurred,              happened         quickly.

In making           its      analysis,             Sandia         also     subjected               samples             of both         the
black       powder          and the cannon propellant                            to a variety                        of tests        to
determine           their       sensitivity                to various            ignition                stimuli.              Based on
those       test         results,          Sandia         concluded          that       electrostatic                     discharge,
electromagnetic                 radiation,                friction,         or thermal                   effects         were not
likely       causes          of the         Iowa explosion.

Sandra       also         examined          the possibility                  that           the    combustion                 of ether
vapors       released           by the propellant                        could      ignite              the     propellant
itself.            It     concluded              that     ether        vapors,         if     ignited,                could     not
produce        sufficient                 heat      to    ignite         the propellant.

When Sandia               reported           on the         results        of    its         work        it     noted         that         it
drd not        consider             its      study        complete,          in the           sense           that      a clear             and
definite           cause       of the explosion                       had been identified,                            and it
recommended               areas      of further              investigation                   by the           Navy.

When the Navy became aware of Sandia's                                           preliminary                    findings,             it
initiated               a series          of tests,          including           the effects                    of     impact
forces       on full-size                  powder         charges.           As you know,                     powder          ignitions
have occurred                 dur rng those                 tests,         and the Navy subsequently
suspended            firing          16-inch           guns aboard              the battleships.                   The Navy’ s
testing         continues              and Sandia              is working            with      the Navy on those

In August,             when the Navy deployed                              the battleship               Wisconsin          to the
Persian         Gulf       area        it         sought     to lift           the ban on 16-inch                  gun firing.
To accomplish                 this,          it     took     several           actions       in response             to the
issues        that      we raised                  during      our work.              Most significantly,                   for        the
type      of gunpowder                 that         was being             used during          the      Iowa explosion,
the Wrsconsin                 will          only     use propellant                  charges       that     have no         trim

layer.          For other              types          of gunpowder,              the     propellant              charges      will
have at         least         20 pellets               in the         layer.          Sandia       has agreed          that           this
makes the            chance           of an accidental                     explosion         highly        remote.          In

addition,            the      Navy

--     inspected           all        equipment             in the         turrets       to ensure          it     was in
       safe     operating              condition,
--     has    ensured            the proper                quantity         and quality            of     the gun crews,
       proper        training               and adherence                 to Personal          Qualification
--     provided          training                 to gun crews             on how to quickly                inspect         bag
       charges         during          handling             and prior           to loading           to determine                if
       any propellant                  grains          have become loose,                    and
--   marked          the      rammer control                   lever        bracket         in yellow            at the
       proper        position               for     ramming.


Neither       our     analysis          of ammunition                reports          nor        Sandia's          lab:jratory
tests       of Iowa       powder        samples         indicate             that     chemically              unstable
powder       was a likely             cause        of the explosion.                        We examined              several
data    sources,          including          ammunition              mishap          and malfunction                      reports
and investigations,                   to    identify           any chemical                  stability            problems.
Sandia       tested       the     propellant            to determine                 its       chemical           stability.
Based on those               tests,        Sandia       concluded             that         stabilizer             levels         were

adequate       and met specifications.

We also       examined           several       data      sources,             including                 ammunition          mishap
and malfunction               reports        and investigations,                           to determine              if     they
reflected           any   serious,          systemic           ammunition             problems.               We found              no
indications           of problems            with       the        specific          type        of propellant
involved        in the          explosion.             However,             ammunition             problems          have been
encountered           with       16-inch        ammunition             components                in the past.                  For
example,        there        were problems              with        split       propellant                bags.           A program
is underway           to correct            that       problem         by using              bags made of a
different        material.              Other       problems,               which      have also             been
addressed,           were encountered                  with        earlier          versions             of the primers
used to ignite               the powder            charges.             The primers                 had deteriorated                     in
storage       and were not              reliably          igniting            the      powder            charges.            A
modified        version          of the primer                has been produced.

While       16-inch          ammunition                components               can be sensitive                       to unplanned
heat,       shock,         or     impact          stimuli,           the current               inventory                ranks       19th
among the           25 munitions                  of greatest                concern          to the Navy.                    Th?
requirement            to        meet      the     standards              for         insensitivity                   to those
stirnull          has been waived                  for       the current                 inventory,               however,          because
the Navy believes                       that      the     16-inch            inventory              poses        a relatively
low danger           compared              to other            shipboard               munitions               and because
modifying           other         munitions             has a higher                   funding            priority.

Concerns           were      raised            after      the explosion                   over           th;    arr.m-! .:ion's
sensitivity            to the            effects          of electromagnetic                             radiation.
Communlcatlon                and radar             transmitters                  can transmit                   electromagnetic
radiation           that         can     cause         ammunition               components                containing
electrical            circuits             to detonate.                   The primer                    was the        only
ammunition           component                 involved         on April               19,    1989,            that     contains          an
electrical            circuit,             and it         requires              only      moderate              protection           from
electromagnetic                   energy;           for      example,            it      cannot           be within            56 feet
of a transmitting                       AN/WSC-3 antenna.                        Turret            II     is    about         100 feet
from       that     type         of antenna,              SO    this         should          not         have been a concern.
In its        investigation,                     the Navy ruled                  out       the primer                 as the      cause

of the explosion.


To determine                if     there         were equipment                  serviceability                       problems,       we
reviewed           maintenance                 reports         for     all       four        battleships                from      the date

of their          reactlvatlon               to March,           1990 .          This        data      dlsclossd                no
systemic          problems          with      the material                  condition          of     the guns or the
battieships              in general.             We also          compared              the data         with         similar

data      for     other       Navy surface             combatants               such as cruisers,
destroyers,              and frigates.                This       comparison              indicated             that      the
battleships              do not       present         any undue material                       or supply              support

Navy      ships        are    required         to report              all      equipment             fa ilures          affect         ing
their      abil ity          to perform          their          mission         that        cannot       be corrected
wlthin          40 hours.            The reports             identify           the      specific             equipment
problem          and the          reason      that      completing              the      repairs         is delayed.
Repalrs          may     be delayed,            for     example,             because         needed           repair        parts
are not          available           aboard      ship        or because            the       ship’s        crew needs
outside          technical           assistance           to complete                 the    repairs.             None of the
reports          affecting           the     16-inch         turrets           reflected             a severe           impact            on
the      ships’        primary        missions.              The ships            were       still       capable            of
providing           16-inch          gun fire         support          despite           the     variety          of failures
encountered.                 We     also     noted       that      the numbers,                 types,         and
frequencies              of reported           equipment              failures           varied         among the               four
ships.           We found           no pattern           of failures              that         indicated          systemic
problems          with       the     guns and other               turret          equipment.

We also           compared          the battleships’                  overall           equipment             readiness              to
that      of other           Navy     surface         combatants               to determine              if      the
battleships              present           any undue material                    or supply            support           problems.

They do not              appear         to do so.            Between      1984 and 1989,                    for         example,
the battleships                 operated           without       any major            equipment             failures              for        a
greater       percentage                of the       time      that    they     were operational                         than did
surface       combatants                as a whole.             The battleships                had a         better          record
in this       regard           for      19 of      the 24 quarters               in this          period            than     did
the surface              combatants             as a whole.            Additionally,                 the     battleships
experienced              no    major       equipment           failures        of any type             during             four

There      were no distinct                      overall       differences            between         the battleships
and the other                 surface       ships          in the proportion              of the            total         number
of equipment              failures          due to the unavailability                          of     repair             parts,
about      63 percent                in each case.              Only about            3 percent             of the supply-
related       failures                severely       affected         the battleships'                 ability              to
perform       their           missions           compared       to about         11 percent                for      the other

Based on its              visits          to the       Iowa,      Sandra       found       that       the powder
hoist,       powder           door,       rammer,          and other      equipment              in the gun                room

appeared        to have been in proper                          operating            condition         at         the     time          of
the      explosion.              It     therefore           concurred         with      the Navy's                conclusion
that      mechanical            operations            were not         associated             with     the          explosion.

You asked           if    an alternative                   weapon system             should       be developed.                         In
this      regard,         some         safety      modifications              on the       current               system      are

being       explored            because          of Sandia’s           conclusion            that            an    overram           of
the powder             may      have caused             the    Iowa incident.


Our      review        of battleship               injury        reports      and previous                        turret         powder
fires       revealed            no prior          safety       problems      with           the         16-inch            gun
system       that          would      indicate          a relationship             to the               explosion            on the

Personal            injuries

Any incident                resulting            in a fatality,            a lost           workday,               an
electrical             shock,        a person           overboard,         or a chemical                       or toxic
exposure            must       be reported             to the     Navy     Safety           Center.                We reviewed
the reports                of personal            injuries        and deaths            occurring                  on board           the
battleships                since      their       recommissioning             and compared                        the      results        to
injury        rates         on all         surface       ships        to determine                if     this        would        reveal
any      systemic           gun     or ammunition              problems,           It       did         not.

Other       than       the        Iowa’s      turret         explosion,       none of                  the     reported
incidents             involved          firing         the    16-inch      guns.            One sailor,                    however,
was injured                in a turret            during       a training          drill,               and another               was
Injured         in a 16-inch                magazine          while      conducting               an operational                     test.
Most of the                incidents          involved         injuries       such as inhalation                             of toxic
fumes,       contusions,                and fractures             incurred         during               routine

operations.                For example,               sailors           slipped         and fell      on decks                     and
ladders,         had hatches               closed        on their              hands,     or were          injured
handling         heavy       equipment               or supplies.                 Additionally,                while              some     of
the reported               accidents           involved             electrical           shocks,      none were
reported         to have occurred                     in the           16-inch       turrets.

We found         that       the     injury           rates       for     the battleships              were lower                     than
the     rates        of injuries             on other            ship       types       in 1987 and 1988.                           The
battleships'               1989 rate           would         also       have been lower              if         the         Iowa
explosion            had been excluded                     from        the data.          While      the             Iowa had the
highest         injury       rate       of the          four        battleships            in 1989             (again,             due to
the turret            explosion),              its      injury          rate      was not       the highest                       among
the     fotir    battleships                in 1987 and 1988.

Prior       turret         powder          incidents

The Iowa incident                   appe ars          to be unique                among the         incidents
involving            powder        fires       in the turrets                    aboard      the Navy’s
battleships.                We ident ified               six        other        incidents         of this                 type     that
resulted         in fatalities                 between           the turn           of the      century               and the
decommissioning                of     the battleships.                         None of the          other             incidents
paralleled            the     Iowa's.           Of the six,                 the Navy         concluded                that         four
were attributable                   to the           ignition           of powder          charges         by either
combustible              gasses       or burning               embers that              remained          in         the     gun

barrels         from       a previous            firing.               In its       investigation                    of the         Iowa
incident,            the    Navy      concluded              that       the guns in turret                      II         had not

fired      that       day;           therefore,         neither          of these       conditions           could   have
caused       the      incident.

The two remaining                       incidents         took      place      before     World       War I.         One
occurred          when the             primer         in the breech            block     of a loaded           gun fired
as the breech                   was being           opened.         The other          was caused       by molten
metal      from       an electrical                   short     dropping         on a powder          bag.

Alleged        problems

We could            not    corroborate                several       allegations          that      were made after
the explosion                about           unsafe     or unusual           turret      conditions.             One
allegation,               for        example,         was that          a 16-inch       gun fired       as soon as
the breech            block           was closed.              We could        find     no record       of such an
incident            on board            the     Iowa,     and none of the               crew members we talked
to were aware                   of    it.       However,         such an incident               occurred       on the
battleship            U.S.S.            Arizona         in 1937.


According            to the Navy's                  incident        investigation           report,          approved
procedures            to ensure               the safe         firing       of the      16-inch       guns were not
followed            aboard           the     Iowa on April              19, 1989.        The investigation
noted,        for     example,               that     cigarette          lighters,       rings,       and keys were
found      on the          remains            of the deceased               sailors      even though
spark-producing                      items      are prohibited              in the      turrets.

The Navy's           investigation           also     found     that       Iowa personnel               had
improperly           approved         and were conducting               gunnery         experiments.              Ship
personnel        were        loading       an inappropriate             projectile/powder
combination           when the          explosion       occurred.             This     involved         five     bags
of an unauthorized                 type     of powder with             a 2,700-pound              projectile
rather      than      six     bags of the authorized                   type     of powder.              Improperly
authorized           combinations           were fired         on at least             two other         occasions.
The Navy believed                that     neither       the presence            of spark          producing
devices        nor    the     experimental           firing     caused         the     explosion.

The Navy Inspector                 General       subsequently           investigated              the    reported
experiments           with      16-inch      projectiles         and propellant                  and concluded
that     the    firings         in question          on the     Iowa were,             in fact,         improperly
authorized           and contrary           to Navy procedures.                      His report         concluded
that     the safety           hazard       posed to the         Iowa's         crew by the experiments
was, at best,               undetermined.

The Inspector               General's       report      also    noted         other     instances          in which
16-inch        ammunition          components         had been developed,                  funded,         and
tested      by Naval          Sea Systems           Command activities                 without       proper
authorization.                That      report      concluded       that       these     actions         had not
posed a safety               hazard       to the     Iowa's     crew and had resulted                      from an
unauthorized           but      institutionalized              process.


We found          that,         compared           to other        surface         ships,          battleships             were
not     assigned          an equal            share     of authorized               enlisted           supervisory
personnel          or personnel                in ratings              associated       with          gun     turret

operations.                Additionally,               the personnel             assigned             on battleships
rated      lower         by several            measures          than      those      assigned             to other          ships.

Low Manning              Level of
Supervisory              Personnel

We compared              peacetime            authorizations               to on-board              manning            of the
battleships              with       the      average      from a sample               of surface              ships        at
various          times       in the deployment                   cycle.        We did          not      include           the
battleship           Wisconsin               because      it     has not       deployed              since       its
reactivation.                   The 17 surface                 ships      included          destroyers,                cruisers,
and amphibious                  assault        type     ships.           We found           that      the     overall
percentage           of authorized                  enlisted           personnel       assigned              to the
battleships              was comparable                to that          of the       sample         ships.             However,
the manning               levels          of all      battleship           enlisted          supervisors,
including          gunners           mates         and fire        controlmen          associated               with       the     16-
inch      turrets,          were generally                lower         than   those         of      the     other        ships       in
our sample.

The battleships                    overall         and the       Iowa deployed               with       significantly
lower      percentages               of their          authorized           enlisted           supervisors                and
tUKKet-related                  journeymen.            The ships           in the      sample           deployed           with       an

average       of 101 percent            of their            authorization                   for        supervrsory
enlisted       personnel        (pay grades               E-7 through                   E-9),      while         the     Iowa and
battleships          overall     deployed            with        92 and 93 percent,                        respectively.
These differences              were more pronounced                             for     gunners         mates         and fire
controlmen,          as table      1 shows.               The situation                    was similar                with
regard      to journeymen          (pay grades                 E-5 and E-6)                 in     the     gunners           mate

and fire       controlman        ratings.               Conversely                    the battleships                 were
assigned          a higher     percentage             of their            authorized               apprentices               in pay
grades      E-l     through     E-4.

Table l:On-board   Percentages    of Gunners Mates                                          and Fire             Controlmen
Compared to Authorized     Levels at Deployment
                                             Iowa                Battleships                           Ship      sample

Ali      Supervisors                           92                               93                              101
Gunners       Mates
      Supervisors                              73                               77                              100
      Journeymen                               88                               82                              135
      Apprentices                              94                               92                               73
Fire      Controlmen
      Supervisors                             92                           88                                   120
      Journeymen                              89                           92                                   128
      Apprentices                            106                          109                                    85

The impact          of manning         for     gunners           mates           aboard          the     Iowa was
highlighted          at the     time     of the explosion.                               In turret         II,        two of the
three      journeyman-level             gun captain                positions,               normally             E-Ss,       were
filled       by E-4 apprentices.                    The center                  gun captain             was the only
journeyman          gun captain.             All      three         of the gun captain                        positions             in
turret       I were filled         by E-4 apprentices,                                and a journeyman                 was
filling              the     supervisory               turret          captain's          position,                which        is
normally              filled        by an E-7.

Chief         of Naval             Personnel            officials              told     us that           they         had
diff      lculties              in filling             billets          on battleships.                        The officials                also
said        that        the      ship      sample         had excess              gunners             mates        and fire
controlmen                 at the         journeyman              and supervisory                     levels          because         these
personnel              were        promoted            at higher              rates.          Also,       personnel                 promoted
during          a deployment                 are not             reassigned,            even though                   on-board
excesses              develop.             Since         the      school         terms        for      those          ratings         on the
ships         in our sample                  are       longer          than     those         for      the       16-inch-related
schools,              the personnel                tend          to be a higher                grade           when reporting                 to
ships         of the            types      in    our      sample.

The officials                    also      noted         that      personnel            who are               assigned          to the
battleships                  and who reenlist,                     frequently                request           duty       elsewhere           to
enhance              their       promotion             opportunities                  by gaining               practical
experience                 in    more      common gun systems.                           Similariy,                they      prefer         to
attend          schools            for     other         gun systems              to enhance                  their       promotion
opportunities                    and,      because          the other             guns have newer                      electronic
technology,                    to enhance          their          prospects            for     future            civilian
employment.                     Sailors         aboard           the    Iowa expressed                   similar            views      to     us.

Battleship Personnel                           Fare
Worse in Advancement                           Opportunities

As of December                   1989,         battleship          officers           had been selected                    at a
lower       rate,       compared               to officers             in the       sample           of other         surface
warfare       ships,             for     leadership             positions           such as executive                     officer
and commanding                   officer.             Only      23 percent            of       the    commanders           serving
on battleships                 were considered                    qualified           to be a commanding                     officer
compared        to 88 percent                     of the commanders                   on the          sample        ships.          For
lieutenant            commanders                being       considered             to serve           as executive
officers,            the      figures           were more comparable--53                             percent        of
battleship             lieutenant               commanders             were considered                  qualified          compared
to 56 percent                 on the           sample         ships.       HOWeVeK,             the     Iowa had only               25
percent        who were considered                          qualified.

Enlisted        personnel                on battleships                 also       fared        worse        during       the March
1989 promotion                   cycle         than     did     personnel           aboard           other     ships       in our
sample.         Battleship                  personnel            overall         scored         lower        on the promotion
tests,       a key element                     in the promotion                  eligibility             process.            The
failure        rate        for         gunners        mates       and fire          controlmen               on battleships
and for        Navy-wide                personnel           were similar.                  However,           the battleship
gunners        mates          and fire            controlmen             failure        rates         of 11 and 6
percent,        respectively,                     were significantly                    higher          than     the ship
sample's            failure            rates      of 0 and 1 percent,                      respectively.

Among those             who passed                the    test,         fewer       battleship            personnel           in the
gunners        mate and fire                     controlman            ratings        were selected                 for
promotion.               For example,                 53 percent          of the gunners                  mates       on board
the battleships                   were promoted                 compared         to 65 percent               for      the ship
sample          and 58 percent                   Navy-wide.             FOK    fire     controlmen,                the     results
were 8 percent                   for     the battleships,                 15 percent             for      the      ship     sample,
and 13 percent                   Navy-wide.

Higher          Rate of
Disciplinary          Actions

During          fiscal       year         1989,       battleship          personnel             experienced               a higher
rate     of disciplinary                       actions,         including         nonjudicial              punishments

(NJPs),          courts-marital,                     and punitive             discharges.               For example,                  the
battleships'               NJP         rate      per thousand            (195)        was approximately                    27
percent          higher          than         the    ship     sample      rate        (154 per           thousand)          and
183 percent              higher           than       the     Navy-wide         rate      (69 per          thousand).
While          the   Iowa had the                   lowest      rate     (174 per         thousand)             among
battleships,               its         NJP rate         was still         150 percent             higher           than     the
Navy-wide            Kate.             Similar        results          were noted         for     the      battleships'
and the           Iowa's         courts-martial                 and punitive            discharge            rates.

About          70 percent              of the        battleships'             personnel          are      in grades             E-l
through          E-4.        Battleships               also      have a lower             level         of supervisory
personnel            than        the      ships       in our sample.                  Navy officials                said        that
these          factors       may have contributed                        to the higher                 disciplinary              rates
aboard          the battleships.

PROBLEMS WITH 16-INCH                        GUN     TRAINING

The adequacy               of    training           on the      Iowa became an issue                      because         the
Navy's      incident             investigation             report         on the         explosion          said     that
unqualified           personnel              were manning              the turret.              HOWeVer, the              former
Commanding          Officer           of the         Iowa said          that      the crew was trained,                        but
that     the      records          were not          up-to-date.               Since      the    training           records
were destroyed                  in the       explosion,          never         existed,         OK have not              been
located,          we are         unable       to reconcile              this      conflict.              Additionally,
the Navy had not                   approved         a training            plan     for     the battleship                 class,
and the advanced                   training          school         had limited           hands-on          training             aids
for     operation           and maintenance                instruction.

While      the     Iowa had the               framework             of a personnel              qualification
standard          (PQS) program               for     the personnel               assigned         to its          tUKKetS,
insufficient               records         were available               after      the     explosion           to provide
an overview           of        each individual's                   qualifications.                The Navy's
incident          investigation               report       criticized             the     Iowa for          a lack        of
documentation,                  especially           service         record       entries,         for      determining
the qualifications                    of assigned              personnel.              We found,          however,            that
service        record           entries,       while       preferable,             were not          required            until
personnel          were         transferred           to another           command.             The Iowa           and its
superior          command now require                     such entries             upon completion                  of
assigned          PQS tasks.               DUKing OUK review                   of service          KeCOKdS for
selected          turret         positions           aboard         the --
                                                                        Iowa in November                    1989,        we
found      that      the new requirements                       had been implemented.

Using      reconstructed                          data,          Iowa officials            attempted             to evaluate              the
qualifications                      status             of the personnel                  assigned       turret            positions
on April             19,     1989.                 Personnel              were considered            to be "operationally
qualified"             based           on the               number of gun fire                exercises             and training
drills       in which                 they          had participated.                     While      the     information               they
developed             indicated                    that      the personnel               assigned          in the         tUKKetS         were
experienced,                 we found                 weaknesses              in the analysis.                    In our opinion,
the crew's             proficiency                         cannot         be verified       because          the      information
merely       shows that                  the           crew members were assigned                           in the         turret
during         the exercises                         and drills             but does not document                     what duties
they     actually              performed.                        For example,            one person          was classified                   as
operationally                  qualified,                    even though           he was serving                  in his         assigned
role     for         the      first           time          on    April       19, 1989.           Ill another             case,       the
analysis             did      not       include              the        status    of one ind ividual                  serving          in
turret         II.

The Iowa's                 turret            II      was authorized               five     personnel              who were
required             to have completed                            training        at the Navy's                  formal      school         for
16-inch          gunners.                    However,             on the day of the                 explosion,             only       two of
the positions                   were              filled         with      individuals        who had attended                      the

The Navy's                 formal            training             program        for     16-inch      gun operations                   and
maintenance                 has weaknesses.                             The gunners        mates      we     met      with        aboard
both      the        Iowa and the New Jersey                                  were very       disappointed                 with       the
Navy’s         formal           school                for     16-inch         gunners       because         it      lacked        actual

turret      equipment,                    and they         believed              it     offered            little          prdCtiCa1

instruction.                  The crews            believed               that         they     learned             their        jobs

through          on-the-job                training.             The school's                   internal              evaluations                    and
the      Navy's        draft          training           plan       for      the battleships                        also       noted
problems          caused         by the           lack       of training                  aids.            Our visits                  to the
school      confirmed                 that       limited         hands-on               training             was being              provided
due to the             lack          of    training          aids.           We noted               no improvements                      in the
content          of the course                   or available                training               aids       since         the
explosion.               While            the Navy developed                          a draft        training               plan        to
improve          the     16-inch             training           courses               in September                  1989,      the plan
still      awaits            final         approval          and implementation.


We reviewed              the         Navy's       concept           of battleship                    employment--what                          the
ships'       wartime            missions            are and how they                          are    scheduled                for
peacetime           deployment.                   My remarks                will         be brief             since         much of the
detailed          information                  is classified.

While       the battleships                      are very           capable              weapons platforms                          and have
been included                  rn deployment                 schedules                 and operational                      plans,
emerging          circumstances                    limit        their         utility.               The battleships                          were
reactivated              to alleviate                    existing           force         structure                 shortfalls                and to
help      meet         the     600-ship            goal      using          existing              platforms.                  With           their
variety          of guns and missiles,                           the battleships                         provide            an imposing
array       of f irepower.                     The Tomahawk missiles                              give        them a s ignificant

capability                for      attacking                land        targets       and other           surface        ships.             The
Harpoon       missiles                   also        contribute             to the battleships'                  capability                 to
operate        against                  hostile          surface           ships.          The battleships'                16-inch
guns are the best                          source         of naval             SUKfaCe fire            SUppOKt for               an
amphibious                assault             and are,             in fact,          the     only    guns     remaining               on
Navy ships                that      are         larger           than      5 inches.            Navy officials              said           that
when compared                    to air           support           in an amphibious                 operation            the     16-inch
guns,       within              their         range         limitations,              can deliver            more firepower
under       a wider              variety             of weather             conditions.              Because        of     its
imposing        size             and configuration,                         the      Navy believes            a battleship's
presence        can be a strong                             deterrent              in a third-world            scenario.

While       the battleships'                          Tomahawk and Harpoon missile                             capability                  is
imposing,            it         is not          unique           within        the Navy.            Many Other           Navy
vessels,        submarines                      as well            as surface           ships,       carry     those        same
weapons.             Also,              the     battleships'                contribution             to future            amphibious
warfare        may be limited.                              The 16-inch              guns'      current       maximum range                     of
just    over         23 miles                 impairs            the      ships'      ability        to provide            effective
naval       surface              fire         support            within        the context           of an "over            the
horizon"        amphibious                      assault--           one launched                from 25 to 50 miles
offshore        and extending                         far        inland.            This     range     limitation           has been
noted       in Navy documents.

FUKtheKmOKe, with                          only        two battleships,                    operating         and personnel
tempo restrrctions                            will       limit          future       deployments.             Current
policies,            for         example,             preclude             a ship          from deploying           for     12 months

after        it     returns            from      a 6-month             deployment.              Also,     the battleships
require            a crew of about                  1,500           compared,         for      example,       to a crew of
about        360 on an Aegis                     cruiser.              Finally,        reducing         the    number of
battleships                 to two,          especially              with      one homeported             on each coast,
will        compound the manning                          and training               problems       discussed          earlier
and further                 limit         availability.

Budget            constraints              led     to the decision                   to decommission             two of the
four        battleships.                   The battleships                   are costly          to maintain           and
difficult             to man and,                until         the      ships'       unique      contributions              in the
Middle            East can be evaluated,                            mission-related              questions        concerning
their        contributions                   remain.

FOK these             reasons,             we are recommending                       that      the Secretary           of
Defense            direct           the    Secretary            of the Navy to reevaluate                        the
battleships'                 utility             in the        light        of known constraints                 and
limitations                 and,       unless       current             Middle       East operations             convincingly
demonstrate                 their         unique         utility,           direct      that     the Secretary              of the
Navy decommission                         the Missouri                 and the Wisconsin.

Madame Chair,                  this        concludes            my PKepaKed KeI'IIaKkS.                   I would       be happy
to answer             any questions.