Archive for Friday, February 23, 2001

Military changes policy on civilians

Defense secretary orders ban on who can operate armed forces equipment

February 23, 2001

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— Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will order a moratorium on allowing civilians at the controls of any military ship, aircraft or vehicle, officials said Thursday. The move responds to questions about the role of civilians aboard the U.S. submarine that collided last week with a Japanese fishing trawler.

Rumsfeld's spokesman, Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, said the order is a "work in progress" and may be issued by the end of the week.

"All the services know this is coming," Quigley said.

Rumsfeld wants the military services to review their safety guidelines on civilian participation in military activities. He supports involving civilians in military exercises and maneuvers, Quigley said, but wants to ensure that relevant policies are reviewed considering what happened aboard the USS Greeneville.

The Greeneville, a nuclear-powered attack submarine, had 16 civilians aboard when it collided with the fishing vessel Ehime Maru on Feb. 9 off the coast of Honolulu. The Japanese boat, on a cruise to teach commercial fishing to high school students, sank, and nine people were lost at sea. Two civilians were at control positions aboard the Greeneville at the time of the accident, although the Navy says they did not cause it.

Shortly after the accident, the Navy stopped allowing civilians in the control rooms of submarines.

The possibility that the presence of civilians aboard the sub could have contributed to the accident is one of the subjects to be examined in a formal Navy court of inquiry scheduled to convene in Hawaii next week. A panel of three Navy admirals will conduct the inquiry, with a Japanese officer designated as an adviser. Tokyo announced the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force is sending Adm. Isamu Ozawa, who will be included in deliberations with three American admirals.

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