Report: Budget shortfalls result in a swell of fatal military crashes

Matt Saintsing
April 12, 2018 - 1:55 pm

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alex Corona/U.S. Navy


Fatal crashes involving military aircraft have spiked nearly 40 percent as a result of massive Congressional budget cuts, a damning report from the Military Times has found.

The wave of military crashes occurred between fiscal years 2013 and 2017, when sequestration—automatic spending cuts to the U.S. federal budget—were in place. At least 133 service members were killed during that time span.

For some aircraft, accident rates were nearly doubled, including the Navy and Marine Corps’ F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets.

The investigation found that mandatory cuts to the defense budget, in addition to a dramatic increase in flight hours despite a pilot shortage, was the cause of the shocking rise in military aviation mishaps.

Moreover, the staggering rate of non-stop military deployments, a dearth of maintainers and cuts to pilots’ flight-training hours, have led to the deadly detriment of American military aviation readiness.

 Retired Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle told the Times that “we are reaping the benefits—or the tragedies—that we got into back in sequestration.

Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was not surprised. “We stopped training, for months,” he said. “Of course, all of that affected readiness. It’s had an impact on every part of our defense enterprise.”

“And that means, surely, accidents,” he added.

A database built by Military Times found a total of 7,590 accidents that have occurred since 2011. The overall statistical rise is partly due to more than 6,000 minor, non-fatal Class C incidents, such as bird strikes, or collisions while taxiing on flight decks.

There were a total of 524 more deadly Class A misfortunes, which involve “extreme damage, aircraft destroyed or fatality,” and 744 Class B accidents, or ones that resulted in “major damage.”   

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned Congress about the deep, automatic spending cuts to pilot training hours. ““We cannot repair our way out of the situation we are in,” said Mattis.

The trickle-down impacts from those cuts continue, Mattis added.

However, he told lawmakers that the issue has his attention and called on Congress to be a part of the solution to the military’s fatal readiness issues.

“With your help, we are now going to be able to come out from underneath this and put our readiness back where you expect it to be when you put out billions of taxpayer dollars for various parts of the military,” he said.

“We are keenly aware that we have got to deliver a more ready force.”