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Blumenthal asks top Navy officers about ship conditions, data security

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal.
Molly Ingram
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) questioned top Navy officers about mental health aboard ships and data security on Wednesday.

Blumenthal asked Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael M. Gilday to do more to support mental health on Navy ships.

Three sailors completed suicide while stationed on the U.S.S. George Washington last year. Master of Armed Seaman Recruit Xavier Mitchell Sandor, one of the sailors, was from Shelton, Connecticut.

“I’d like your assurance that accountability, that is holding responsible anyone in command who knew or should have known about the desperate straits of those three sailors, will be at least named and held accountable in some way,” Blumenthal said.

Gilday told Blumenthal that the Navy is still investigating the deaths and plans to hold those at fault accountable.

“In any specific investigation, and the Navy has relieved 15 commanding officers over the past 12 months for various reasons, we have to connect those actions directly to the findings to the facts of those investigations,” Gilday said. “I commit to you sir that we will look for an answer to that and come back.”

Blumenthal also questioned Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro about considering additional security measures to keep classified documents safe.

Last week, classified documents were posted online by a 21-year-old airman.

“I’ve been a longtime advocate of declassifying documents that don’t need to be kept secret, but at the same time, maybe we ought to be looking at who has access to those documents that truly have to be kept secret to protect vital information and sources and methods,” Blumenthal said.

Del Toro said the Department of Defense requested a 45-day review of security clearances across the department on Wednesday morning.

“It is a bit of a dual edged sword but we have to do better across the department to ensure that we keep it to only those that really need the intelligence in order to be able to fulfill their responsibilities,” Del Toro said.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.