Watchdog: Navy Sailors aren’t getting enough sleep

A government watchdog reported that the Navy has failed to ensure its Sailors are getting enough shuteye, a failure that continues to put Sailors and the fleet at risk.

The Government Accountability Office’s report – “Navy Readiness: Additional Efforts are Needed to Manage Fatigue, Reduce Crewing Shortfalls, and Implement Training” – warned that only about one in seven Sailors is sleeping enough each night.

“The Navy issued a fatigue management policy in 2017, but has inconsistently implemented it and sailors are not receiving adequate sleep,” GAO said. “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.”

GAO noted that the Navy attributed the four “mishaps at sea” that took place in 2017, which included two collisions, to Sailor fatigue and overwork. Its report noted that the impairment levels some Sailors show due to a lack of rest is “comparable to intoxication.”

But while the Navy took steps to impose “fatigue guidelines,” GAO found the Navy has no reputable data on how that program is working.

“Without this information, the Navy cannot effectively manage fatigue to ensure crews operate ships safely,” GAO said.

GAO found several ongoing problems, including that the Navy “routinely assigns fewer crewmembers to its ships than its workload studies have determined are needed to safely operate them.”

“The Navy is not achieving its primary fatigue management objective that sailors receive 7.5 hours of sleep per day,” the report concluded. “As a result, the Navy is not ensuring that its sailors are sufficiently rested for optimal performance and safety.”

GAO made several recommendations, including that the Navy collect data on Sailor fatigue, identify factors that contribute to fatigue, take steps to eliminate those factors, and identify Navy units that are not adopting these steps.

AUSN addressed some of these issues in its May 10 position paper on shipbuilding, which highlighted the need for more Sailors to keep up with the number of missions Navy ships are carrying out. AUSN’s paper warned that “double-pump” deployments are tiring out enlistees and creating more incentive for Sailors to leave the service.

AUSN recommended the immediate recruitment of more Sailors to minimize the need for these double-pump deployments, and ensure adequate time for training at sea.

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