Multiple Suicides Lead To U.S. Navy Taking Action

Last week, the US Navy released its highly-anticipated report on the investigation into a spate of suicides at Newport News shipyard in Virginia last year, the Associated Press reported.

The report’s findings lay out the deplorable working and living conditions at US naval shipyards that have gone on for years only to be brought to light due to the deaths at Newport News shipyard.

The investigation concluded that the four suicides at Newport News shipyard were not caused by any single issue. Instead, the deaths underscored the poor living conditions and pervasive problems, especially among the enlisted sailors who do long-term ship maintenance, not just at the Virginia shipyard, but at bases around the country.

In his findings, investigating officer Rear Adm. Bradley Dunham said the Navy’s focus on its “maintenance mission” degraded the service’s ability to “take care of our most junior and at-risk sailors.”

Navy officials said several steps have already been taken to improve conditions at Newport News shipyard and broader changes are planned for other shipyards in the US where similar problems exist.

The recommended changes include pay increases, along with increases in housing benefits, health care, food, job choice, and counseling.

In a memo released with the report, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday concluded that senior leadership, both officers and civilians, “let our standards slip” and “let our people down.”

Del Toro and Gilday blamed the failure on “organizational drift” coupled with the slow erosion of conditions that became unacceptable.

The Navy’s investigation began in 2022 after seven sailors assigned to the USS George Washington aircraft carrier died over 12 months by April 2022 while the carrier was at Newport News shipyard for overhaul. Four of the deaths were suicides, three of which occurred during the week of April 9 to April 15.