Military aviation typically is not a focus area for Flight Safety Foundation or AeroSafety World. While there are some military variants of civilian aircraft operating with armed forces around the world, the operating tempos, equipment types and mission profiles generally are very different between commercial and military operations.
Still, the collection and analysis of accident and incident data are crucial to improving safety in any aviation domain, so I was intrigued with a report published in mid-August by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
In its report, which is detailed in this issue of ASW (see “Military SDCPS”), GAO said it found gaps in the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) approach to collecting, reporting and analyzing military aviation mishap data. One of the GAO findings said the various branches of the U.S. military do not collect standardized mishap data despite various policies and agreements with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) to collect uniform data. Another finding said there is not a consensus between the Army, Navy and Air Force safety centers and the OSD about OSD’s role in conducting causal analysis of mishaps. Also, DOD does not consistently collect relevant training data to analyze trends in mishaps.
The U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force are vast, complicated organizations that in many ways have developed independently of each other over the decades. Dealing with that complexity is undoubtedly a gargantuan task. But collecting standardized data in a standardized format is such a basic tenet when it comes to accident and incident investigations and trend analysis that I was surprised how problematic it appears to be for the U.S. military.
Just like in civilian aviation, it is essential that military aviation stakeholders learn from mishaps and develop mitigation strategies before more serious incidents and accidents occur.
DOD said it concurs with the recommendations contained in the GAO report. Let’s hope changes are afoot.