Issues Arising from the Explosion Aboard the U.S.S. Iowa

T-NSIAD-90-46: Published: May 25, 1990. Publicly Released: May 25, 1990.

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GAO discussed several issues pertaining to a gun turret explosion on the U.S.S. Iowa. GAO noted that concern has been expressed on the adequacy of the Navy's investigation and the continued safety of battleships, and: (1) conducted an independent investigation of the Navy's technical analysis of likely causes of the explosion; (2) reviewed the battleship's safety; and (3) examined manning and training issues raised by the vessel's commander after the explosion. GAO found that: (1) the impact sensitivity of the gunpowder in combination with an overram at higher-than-normal speeds could have caused the explosion; (2) safety policies and procedures were not being followed at the time of the explosion; and (3) the vessel was assigned a disproportionably low percentage of enlisted supervisory personnel, including gunners mates and fire controlmen. GAO believes that: (1) further testing on the Navy's technical findings is needed; (2) the safety violations did not contribute to the explosion; and (3) the quality of manning was lower than for naval ships on average.

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