IMHO the US Navy has been suffering from two decades of capital depreciation and institutional neglect. Too much responsibility with (believe it or not) too small a force, coupled with an insidious tendency to turn the service into a Boat Army and a lot of R&D boondoggles.
The Navy has not had a very clear goal for its R&D, largely because nobody has fought more than a skirmish at sea in over half a century. Most naval warfare is theoretical at this point.
Another problem has something to do with a breakdown in institutional memory. I joke that "navy'ing is hard" because seeing countries like China try to develop carrier aviation basically from scratch shows how much these things rely on very specialized skills.
The US has been doing carrier aviation continuously for a century now. We're really good at it, and will continue to be as long as we keep all these carriers at sea. But for a country trying to break into the carrier business, building these skills is a monumental task.
Same goes for things like underway replenishment. Refueling a ship at sea isn't easy! Very very few countries can do it. There are a thousand examples.
So when I see a rash of failures in the fleet, things like sleeping on watch or poor shiphandling or fires breaking out, my first thought is that the senior enlisted are getting absolutely ground down into dust
Chiefs and senior petty officers are the backbone of the operational fleet. I know so many who have gotten out rather than finish their 20. Or were driven out. Or did 20 when they could have done 30.
This is purely anecdotal, just my own personal impression. But these are folks who stuck out the Bush years (which I didn't) and have been busting their asses trying to fulfill the insane operational tempo we have forced on them, but for many it got to be too much.
I feel like this doesn't get talked about much because the Navy largely weren't the ones doing the dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though I knew plenty of guys who were basically forced into physical security billets for years to relieve manpower for the Forever Wars.
Anyway, a degradation of institutional memory (or whatever you want to call it) leads directly to things like seamanship mistakes that cost lives.
The Navy needs a rest. Literally. See also my thread on the Navy and sleep here:
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