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Press Release Published: Jun 12, 2024

Grothman Opens Hearing on Oversight of Deadly Osprey Crashes

WASHINGTON—Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs Chairman Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) delivered opening remarks at a subcommittee hearing titled “Addressing Oversight and Safety Concerns in the Department of Defense’s V-22 Osprey Program.” Subcommittee Chairman Grothman highlighted how recent fatal crashes involving the V-22 Osprey aircraft and a pattern of the Department of Defense withholding information from Congress demand rigorous oversight and accountability. He expressed concern that despite the monumental investment the taxpayer has made in the Osprey program, the Department has not prioritized long-term sustainability and operability of the program and has even cut operations and maintenance budgets.

Below are Subcommittee Chairman Grothman’s remarks as prepared for delivery.

Good morning and welcome everyone.

The goal of today’s hearing is to examine the Department of Defense’s V-22 Osprey program.

As an American deeply committed to the safety of our service members and the responsible stewardship of U.S. taxpayer funds, I believe it is imperative that we examine the challenges associated with this program.

The V-22 Osprey, a revolutionary tiltrotor aircraft, was designed to combine the vertical takeoff and landing capabilities of a helicopter with the long-range, fuel-efficient performance of a turboprop plane.

Its promise was significant: enhancing the operational reach and flexibility of our armed forces.

However, as with any ambitious defense program, it has encountered substantial hurdles, and tragically, has been linked to numerous fatalities.

Since the V-22 became operational, it has been involved in multiple crashes during training exercises, resulting in the loss of over fifty service members’ lives.

These incidents have earned the Osprey the troubling nickname “widow maker,” highlighting the grave concerns surrounding its safety and reliability.

Most recently, a crash in November 2023 led to the deaths of eight Air Force crew members, prompting the Department of Defense to ground the entire fleet for several months.

There have been several known issues throughout the Osprey’s history.

The hard clutch engagement issue is a major mechanical flaw that has plagued the V-22.

This problem has been known since at least 2010 and has caused catastrophic losses of control, contributing to several fatal crashes.

The Department of Defense has publicly claimed that the risk of a hard clutch engagement issue has been reduced by 99 percent.

However, the recent fatal crash and ongoing investigations suggest that more transparency and rigorous testing is needed to verify these claims.

Today, this subcommittee hearing will focus on three key areas.

First, to understand whether all mechanical and operational issues are thoroughly investigated and resolved.

Second, demand transparency and accountability from the Department of Defense.

Since the Committee’s initial requests last year, the Department has produced very few responsive documents. The Department needs to produce the outstanding documents and information as soon as possible.

And finally, I want to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely and efficiently in ways that do not subject the lives of our servicemembers to unnecessary risk over and above what they already face.

Every year the Department of Defense’s budget continues to climb with no proper assessment of priorities.

I have concerns that despite the monumental investment the taxpayer has made in the Osprey program, the Department has not prioritized long-term sustainability and operability of the program and has even cut operations and maintenance budgets.

This is not the first time the House Oversight Committee has examined the Osprey program.

This Committee held a hearing on this topic in 2009.

It is a shame that here we are, over a decade later, trying to understand these issues once again in light of even more crashes and loss of life.

As we proceed with this hearing, let us remember our responsibility to the brave men and women who serve our nation.

Their safety and well-being must be at the forefront of our discussions and decisions.

To that end, I would like to enter into the official hearing record a written statement from the surviving families of a MV-22B Osprey crash that occurred on June 8, 2022, during routine flight operations.

I would like to read one quote from Ms. Amber Sax of California, wife of Captain John Sax, who lost his life in that crash.

“We seek accountability, answers, and change. Our goal isn’t to see this platform removed; it’s to know that someday we will be able to say, “their lives enabled others to live,” knowing what happened to them won’t ever be repeated.”

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses from the Department of Defense today as we continue to work together to address these critical issues.