House lawmakers on Wednesday raised alarm over the string of suicides on the USS George Washington and the readiness of the Navy overall as the Pentagon’s top official acknowledged shortcomings with how sailors are housed on ships undergoing repairs.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a subpanel of the House Appropriations Committee that the Pentagon is awaiting the results of two investigations into the George Washington and figuring out how to lodge sailors in the future after three of the ship’s crew members died in less than one week in April.
“Whether or not we made the right choices is left to be said,” Austin said. “Certainly there’s a problem there. We’ve got to understand what the problem is a bit more and then we have to figure out what to do to ensure we don’t have these kinds of problems in the future.”
Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, said she was “terribly concerned” that the slow pace of ship repairs was creating a “dispirited situation” for the crews assigned to them. The George Washington has been undergoing a mid-life overhaul and refueling process at Newport News, Va., since 2017.
“For hundreds of sailors, they have no access to housing or a car, and they’re stuck on the ship,” Kaptur said. “This is really demoralizing.”