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Readiness Chair Garamendi Responds to GAO Report Detailing Causes of Fatal Military Training Accidents

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), Chair of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, responded to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) that was released on steps the U.S. Army and Marine Corps should take to “mitigate and prevent” fatal training accidents.

BACKGROUND: In the summer of 2019, lawmakers requested GAO conduct a study of non-combat deaths involving tactical vehicles after the tragic death of Marine 1LT Hugh Conor McDowell, a former Chestertown (Md.) resident who was a victim of a training rollover at Camp Pendleton. McDowell was one of six killed and nine injured in a two-month period that year. 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 results released today showed a troubling pattern of deaths and injuries despite the Army and Marine Corps having “established practices to mitigate and prevent tactical vehicle accidents.” GAO found that “units did not consistently implement these practices,” leading to increased incidents caused by “driver inattentiveness, lapses in supervision, and lack of training.”

As Chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, Garamendi has direct jurisdiction over investigating the precipitous rise in fatal military training accidents. Garamendi has held three hearings on military training mishaps, including a May 2021 hearing that included testimony from bereaved family members of service members who were lost due to preventable training mishaps.

“Right now, a cascading series of failures within the military is causing the U.S. to lose more service members in preventable training accidents than in combat,” Garamendi said. “The report that GAO released today highlights a troubling pattern of training shortfalls and supervision lapses that have led to a concerning rise in preventable training deaths throughout the military.

“My message to military leadership is clear: this will not be tolerated,” Garamendi continued. “The military must fully implement each of the recommendations that are outlined in this report to mitigate further, preventable loss of life. As Chair of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, I have conducted a thorough review of this matter and enacted policies to address the concerningly inadequate training standards throughout the military. I will continue to conduct robust oversight into this matter to ensure the GAO policy recommendations are implemented and military leadership transforms its culture of neglect into a culture of safety,” Garamendi concluded.

The full GAO report can be read here.

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