By MASALEEN P. SEHPIN
The Kaselehlie Press
At high speed, the US San Francisco, a US nuclear submarine, struck an undersea mountain on January 8, 2005. The mishap, which took the life of a crew member of the submarine, was thought to be roughly at 350 miles south of Guam, in the FSM's exclusive economic Zone (EEZ) off Yap State.
In a statement delivered before the FSM Congress, Speaker Peter M. Christian of the FSM Congress expressed his disappointment at the lack of information forthcoming to the FSM Government from the Department of Defense regarding the incident. He was concerned that there was no formal notification of Congress when the incident occurred and that he was left to try and reconstruct events based on published news accounts.
According to a press release, it was only through piecing together scant public descriptions of the incident that Christian was able to determine that the accident had taken place in the territory of the FSM. Christian stated it was difficult to not surmise the worst.
According to the press release, "Christian acknowledged that he has since learned that there are many sensitivities surrounding the incident and he stated that he is reassured to have since learned of an ongoing dialogue between the FSM executive branch and the US Government on the matter."
Although Christian is grateful that early indications show no environmental contamination from the accident, he still believe there remain serious questions to be answered regarding the incident, and the steps that can be taken to avoid similar accidents in the future. He stated the recent accident shows that the FSM risks catastrophic consequences whenever nuclear-powered submarines transit its waters. He said believes that the people of the FSM will not be as fortunate should similar accidents occur in the future.
The Commanding officer of the USS San Francisco Kevin Mooney was directed by the commander of the 7th Fleet to be reassigned, pending the results of an investigation into the submarine's grounding, but his reassignment should not be considered a punishment. Mooney was reassigned to Submarine Squadron 15, and the Squadron's deputy commander, Andrew Hale will assume the duties as commanding officer of the San Francisco.