News Briefs – August 25, 2017


Mississippi shipyard to fix destroyer hit in June collision

A U.S. Navy destroyer damaged in a June collision that killed seven sailors will be repaired at a Mississippi shipyard, the Navy announced Aug. 23.
The USS Fitzgerald will be transported to Pascagoula for work at Ingalls Shipbuilding, part of Huntingdon Ingalls Industries of Newport News, Va.
Naval Sea Systems Command said it doesn’t know when work will start, how long it will take, or how much it will cost. The command says it chose Ingalls because it determined that only a shipyard that builds destroyers could fix the damage from a June 17 crash with a Philippine-flagged container ship, which caved in parts of the Fitzgerald above and below the waterline. Water gushed into berthing compartments, killing the sailors.
Only Ingalls and the Bath Iron Works unit of General Dynamics Corp. in Maine build American destroyers. The Fitzgerald, built in 1995 at Bath, is an early version of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. The Navy said it chose to send it to Ingalls for repairs because that yard, which employs 11,000 workers, “has the available capacity to restore USS Fitzgerald to full operational status in the shortest period of time with minimal disruption to ongoing repair and new construction work.”
A second destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, collided on Monday with an oil tanker collided off Singapore, injuring five sailors and leaving 10 others missing. The Navy is still seeking missing sailors and assessing damage to that ship.
Repairs are likely to cost hundreds of millions of dollars and could take more than a year. The Navy spent $250 million on 14 months of repairs for another destroyer, the USS Cole, after it was damaged in a bombing in Yemen in 2000. Repairs at Ingalls to the USS Stark, a frigate hit by Iraqi missiles in 1987, cost $90 million over 10 months.
The Navy said that it will use the opportunity to modernize the Fitzgerald, which had been scheduled for an overhaul in the 2019 budget year. A Navy spokeswoman couldn’t immediately say how much those overhauls typically cost on an undamaged ship.
The Navy said it is considering proposals to hire a heavy-lift ship to carry the Fitzgerald to Pascagoula from Yokosuka, Japan, where it’s currently dry-docked. In a contract solicitation issued earlier this month, the Navy said loading could begin as early as Sept. 15. AP

Drill sergeants suspended in Army sex assault investigation

An Army spokesman says “multiple” drill sergeants at a Georgia post have been suspended as the military investigates allegations that trainees were victims of sexual assault and other sexual misconduct.
Fort Benning spokesman Ben Garrett said Aug. 23 that Army criminal investigators were notified immediately of the allegations at the post in Columbus. Fort Benning conducts basic training and is home to the Army’s infantry and armor schools. About 17,000 trainees are stationed there.
Garrett said “multiple drill sergeants” were suspended pending the investigation’s outcome. He would not release the precise number. Garrett said no one has been charged.
An Army news release said the investigation began when a female trainee accused a drill sergeant of sexual assault. Her complaint revealed further allegations of “sexual misconduct” between trainees and drill sergeants. AP

U.S. cuts, delays $300 million in aid to Egypt, citing rights

The Trump administration on Aug. 22 cut nearly $100 million in military and economic aid to Egypt and delayed almost $200 million more in military financing to Egypt, pending human rights improvements and action to ease harsh restrictions on civic and other non-governmental groups.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had decided to withhold $65.7 million in military assistance and $30 million in economic aid to Egypt that has been on hold since fiscal 2014, the officials said. That money will be reprogrammed, meaning it will now be sent to other countries, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Congress had not been formally notified of the decision.
At the same time, the officials said Rex Tillerson had signed a waiver saying that $195 million in military assistance to Egypt is in the U.S. national interest but had decided to hold off on spending it. Under federal law, Tillerson had until the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30, to either sign the waiver, certify that Egypt is meeting the human rights conditions or return the money to the Treasury. The waiver gives Egypt additional time to meet the requirements for the $195 million, which Congress appropriated for fiscal year 2016.
The officials stressed that the U.S. continues to consider Egypt a key strategic partner but that it remains seriously concerned about a lack of progress on the human rights front, including the passage of the new law on non-governmental organizations that has been widely criticized for being excessive and being used to crack down on opposition. The $195 million will be held in reserve until Egypt makes progress in those areas, the officials said. AP