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GAO Report on Sailor Fatigue, Crewing Shortfalls

The following is the May 27, 2021, Government Accountability office report, Navy Readiness: Additional Efforts Are Needed to Manage Fatigue, Reduce Crewing Shortfalls, and Implement Training.

From the report

What GAO Found

The Navy issued a fatigue management policy in 2017, but has inconsistently implemented it and sailors are not receiving adequate sleep. GAO conducted a survey in 2020 and estimates that 14 percent of officers received the then recommended 7 hours or more of sleep a day during their most recent deployment, while 67 percent received 5 hours or less. Navy data show that sailor effectiveness declines after prolonged periods without sleep, equating to impairment levels comparable to intoxication. The Navy updated its policy in December 2020—directing adherence to fatigue guidelines—and is taking steps to improve implementation, but is limited by a lack of quality information on sailor fatigue and the factors that cause lack of sleep. Without this information, the Navy cannot effectively manage fatigue to ensure crews operate ships safely.

The Navy routinely assigns fewer crewmembers to its ships than its workload studies have determined are needed to safely operate them. Until recently, the Navy tracked and internally reported its crewing against the number of funded positions rather than against required positions, a practice which understated crewing shortfalls (see fig.). As a result, the Navy did not accurately measure the full extent of shortfalls, which almost doubled on average from 8 percent in October 2016 to 15 percent in September 2020. Although the Navy began tracking required positions in February 2021, this practice is not reflected in guidance. The Navy also uses funded positions, rather than requirements, to project its future personnel needs. Therefore, it is not accurately communicating to internal decisionmakers the number of personnel it will need as the fleet grows, which may prevent it from effectively mitigating current crewing shortfalls.

The Ready Relevant Learning (RRL) initiative is intended to improve sailor performance, and the Navy has several ongoing and planned measures to assess its effectiveness. However, delivering modernized training will require significant upgrades to the Navy’s information technology infrastructure, for which it has only recently begun planning. In addition, the Navy has not accounted for the time that sailors will be expected to spend on modernized training when it is fielded, which may exacerbate sailor overwork and fatigue.

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