U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer (C) testifies during a hearing on recent U.S. Navy incidents before Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol in Washington D.C. Gregoire Defrel AS Roma Jersey , the United States, Sept. 19, 2017. Top leaders of the U.S. Navy were urged to do better on Tuesday as they appeared before the Senate hearing over a series of deadly ship collisions involving the Pacific fleet. (XinhuaYin Bogu)
WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- Top leaders of the U.S. Navy were urged to do better on Tuesday as they appeared before a Senate hearing over a series of deadly ship collisions involving the Pacific fleet.
"We must also call you to task and demand answers. As leaders of our Navy, you must do better," Senator John McCain, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson.
The hearing was held in the wake of several Navy ship collisions, including one in August in which USS John S. McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, collided with an oil and chemical tanker near Singapore, leaving 10 U.S. sailors dead and five injured.
The highly-publicized incident came after seven sailors were killed when the USS Fitzgerald, also a guided-missile destroyer, and a container ship collided off the coast of Japan in June, along with two other non-deadly collisions involving the Navy vessels also this year.
McCain said those incidents are "preventable" but now it will cost an estimate of 600 million U.S. dollars for repairs.
"It is simply unacceptable for U.S. Navy ships to run aground or collide with other ships," the Republican senator said. "To have four such incidents in the span of seven months is truly alarming."
Richardson told the hearing that the Navy was conducting reviews and probes, while blaming the incidents on "the corrosive confluence of high operational tempo, inadequate budgets and budget uncertainty."
"But make no mistake, sir, while these factors do exert a negative force on the challenges we face, at the core, this issue is about leadership, especially command," Richardson said.
Two senior Navy commanders were relieved of duty Monday by Vice Admiral Phil Sawyer, the commander of the Japan-based Seventh Fleet, bringing the total number of fired commanders to six, including the top three officers of the Fitzgerald.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a report early this month that the Navy has "increased deployment lengths, shortened training periods, and reduced or deferred maintenance to meet high operational demands, which has resulted in declining ship conditions and a worsening trend in overall readiness."
The report said the crew are being overworked and undertrained but some vital maintenance is not being completed on time.
Spencer stressed that Congress has added training and other requirements to the Navy over time. "No one is taking a rock out and the rucksack is getting pretty damn heavy," he said.
Fatal training accidents have taken the lives of four times more service members than real combat has over the last three years, McCain said as he noted Congress' responsibility.
"Years of budget cuts, continuing resolutions and sequestration have forced our military to maintain a high operational tempo with limited resources," he argued.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday he was reviewing if there was link between recent military accidents and budget caps.
"I am not willing to say right now that there is a direct line between sequestration and what has happened. I am willing to say we are going to take a very close look at that," he told reporters.
LUSAKA, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- A consumer group on Wednesday welcomed the decision by the Zambian government to allow for the entrance of a fourth mobile phone service provider, saying it will enhance competition and bring down the cost of communication services.
On Tuesday, Minister of Transport and Communications Brian Mushimba said the cabinet has approved the coming of a fourth mobile phone service provider and has since given the country's telecommunication and technology regulator to start the bidding process.
He said the move to allow for a fourth operator was necessitated by the high cost of communication services in the country.
The Zambia Consumer Association said the decision to allow for another operator was a good move as it will give consumers a wide choice on which operator to deal with.
"Although it is long overdue we are happy that the government has now decided to allow for the entrance of more mobile phone service providers," Juba Sakala, acting executive director of the consumer group told Xinhua in an interview. "This will result in stiff competition and result in lower cost of telecommunication services."
He said the entrance of another operator will force the existing companies to improve their services.
According to the government, the fourth mobile phone service operator could be in place over the next six-12 months and that the country could still have the capacity for a fifth operator.
Currently, Zambia has three mobile phone service operators namely MTN Zambia, a subsidiary of South Africa's MTN which accounts for the largest share of the market at 48.3 percent, Airtel Zambia, a subsidiary of India's Bharti Airtel at 41.4 percent, and Cell-Z, a subsidiary of the state-run telecommunication firm, Zamtel, which accounts for 10.4 percent of the market.
According to government figures, Zambia had 12.4 million active mobile subscribers as of June this year and 5.9 million Internet users.
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