This is a pretty damning report, but at the end of the day the missions needed to be executed, at least senior leadership believed so. The tradeoff between ops and readiness led to disaster not just once, but twice.

The evidence of neglect was everywhere. The previous May, the GAO, recalling the warnings of Balisle and Copeman, had told Congress that the Navy had a serious readiness problem in the Pacific. Many crew certifications — proof of competency in such things as navigation and ballistic missile defense — were expired. And the Japan-based ships were deteriorating.

In response, the Pentagon told the GAO the Navy was “well aware of the risks” and accepted them as the cost of increasing its presence in the region. Navy and Pentagon leaders promised to ease the pace, but they instead ramped up operations. When the GAO reviewed the certifications again after the crashes of the Fitzgerald and McCain, it found that the lapses of certifications had increased more than fivefold since 2015.