The Navy’s Wake-Up Call


A year ago the nation was stunned by two pre-dawn collisions in the Pacific Ocean that killed 17 sailors and raised troubling questions about how two state-of-the-art U.S. destroyers could have collided with large, lumbering merchant vessels.

This special Medill School of Journalism-USA Today project examines the glaring flaws in readiness, training and tactics that triggered these tragedies and describes what the Navy is doing to prevent them from happening again.


Collisions reveal a Navy tragically undone by its can-do spirit

Fleet for too long had been doing more with less

By Elizabeth Strassner and Jasmine Khayami

Navy-directed investigations would determine that the collisions that killed 17 sailors were the avoidable, tragic results of disturbingly inept ship handling, communications and decision-making by numerous crew members. Moreover, they would reveal that the Navy long had institutionalized tradeoffs on training and maintenance of forward-deployed forces to keep ships and sailors at sea. The increasingly hectic operations tempo – the frequency and duration of deployments – was demanded even as the number of ships and sailors was whittled down. READ MORE

High-stakes brinksmanship in the Pacific

By Casey Egan ad Ricky Zipp

China has been rapidly militarizing disputed territories in the South China Sea, some say as part of a strategy to usurp U.S. dominance of the region, including critical shipping routes. READ MORE

How climate change is threatening the Navy’s footprint in the Pacific

By Kate Cimini

Guam is central to U.S. security interests in the region. It is home to two of the nation’s most strategically important military bases — both threatened by climate change. READ MORE

Dangerous exhaustion: Mission creep a way of life in Western Pacific

By Oyin Falana

The increased underway time is largely to meet mission requests by the combatant commanders who oversee U.S. military operations by region and answer to the Secretary of Defense. READ MORE


Data-driven stories on the Navy’s plans

A deep data dive comparing the size of the U.S. Navy with those of China and Russia, focused on submarines and other attack vessels — and a look at the looming sailor shortage

Beneath the surface, a quiet superpower race for nuclear supremacy

By Yingjie Gu and Matt Sussis

The world’s three largest naval powers are all developing the next generation of their nuclear submarine fleets, accelerating the underwater arms race between the United States, China and Russia. READ MORE

Navy’s planned shipbuilding spree overlooks looming sailor shortage

By Matt Sussis and Yingjie Gu

That net increase of 43 ships could require approximately 35,000 more sailors than the roughly 328,000 active duty sailors serving this year, based on Medill News Service/USA Today calculations. READ MORE

Navy touts new generation of supercarriers

By Kevin Schmidt

The new generation of carriers have more firepower, advanced nuclear reactors, more flight deck space for aircraft, and a state-of-the-art new system for launching aircraft, according to a Medill-USA Today review of the Navy’s carrier program. READ MORE

Trump’s skepticism aside, the Navy is taking climate change seriously

By Gerald Harris

The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act has ordered the Pentagon to identify the top 10 military bases threatened by climate change for the Navy and the other service branches by November. READ MORE