WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Gary Peters (D-MI) sent a letter to Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus seeking answers on the Navy’s dependence on electronic devices for navigation. The Senators questioned why the Navy has failed to mandate basic celestial training for its enlisted personnel, as well as why they lack requirements for U.S. ships to keep updated paper maps aboard at a time when our electronic navigational systems are increasingly targeted by our adversaries. 

As the Senators wrote, “This vulnerability to failure directly threatens the safety and security of our sailors. As the Sergeant Major of the Army stated in his recent efforts to return soldiers to their navigational roots ‘It’s pretty tough to mess with a map, a protractor, a pencil and a compass.’ We owe it to our sailors, enlisted and officer, to ensure these skills are being taught and our sailors are being held to the highest standard before we send them to the fleet. It is imperative that this standard is kept throughout the service.”

The full text of the letter is below, and can be found by clicking here.

 

July 14, 2016

The Honorable Raymond E. Mabus, Jr.
Secretary of the Navy
1000 Navy Pentagon, Room 4E686
Washington, DC 20350-1000

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We write to you today to express our concern with the Navy’s dependency on electronic devices for navigation. This February, it was reported that the Navy finally returned to teaching celestial navigation skills to its commissioned sailors. I However, despite this step forward, the Navy still fails to mandate basic celestial training for its enlisted personnel and alarmingly lacks a requirement for U.S. Navy ships to keep updated paper charts aboard at all times. ii

As you know, Global Positioning Systems, and many other electronic devices used today, are increasingly targeted by our adversaries. Additionally, the satellites they depend on are also susceptible to damage or inaccuracies due to naturally occurring phenomena, like emissions from the sun known as space weather.  This vulnerability to failure directly threatens the safety and security of our sailors.  As the Sergeant Major of the Army stated in his recent efforts to return soldiers to their navigational roots “It’s pretty tough to mess with a map, a protractor, a pencil and a compass.” iii We owe it to our sailors, enlisted and officer, to ensure these skills are being taught and our sailors are being held to the highest standard before we send them to the fleet. It is imperative that this standard is kept throughout the service.

The Army and Marine Corps both have started to take increased steps to enforce basic navigational skills for their personnel, and we ask today for the Navy follow suit. Earlier this year, the Commandant of the Marine Corps stated “We have a generation of Marines that have grown up assuming that the electromagnetic spectrum would be there for them; that they would turn on their gear and it would work 100 percent of the time, and it would be accurate.”[iv] We would argue sailors today have the same assumptions.

We ask that you report back to us as soon as possible about any support the Navy may need in order to enforce the basic training in navigational skills for its sailors, and we request an update on what steps the Navy will be taking to ensure its sailors are properly trained in this area. Though celestial and nautical navigation skills are more challenging to acquire, they are absolutely critical for our sailors who find themselves aboard ships in geographically desolate locations.

 

Sincerely,

 

Senator Joni K. Ernst

 

Senator Gary Peters

 

[i]  http://www.npr.org/2016/02/22/467210492/u-s-navy-brings-back-navigation-by-the-stars-for-officers NPR, February  2016.

[ii]http://www.doncio.navy.mil/chips/ArticleDetails.aspx?ID=3167 Interview with Deputy Navigator of the Navy, December 2005.

[iii]http://www.armytimes.com/story/military/2016/07/05/back-basics-army-dials-up-traditional-soldiering-once-again/86005952/ Army Times, July 2016

[iv]http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story/military/2016/02/11/commandant-marines-get-out-your-map-and-your-compass/80241766/ Marine Corps Times, February 2016.

 

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