Pentagon stops short of blaming funding, training issues for deadly jet crash

Pentagon stops short of blaming funding, training issues for deadly jet crash
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Pentagon officials on Thursday acknowledged that budget shortfalls could erode the military's capabilities including training, but stopped short of blaming the issue for a Navy fighter jet crash the previous day that left both crew members dead.

Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White emphasized the importance of "stable funding" when asked if there was a connection between the crash and reduced training and flight hours due to a yet-to-be-approved fiscal 2018 defense budget.

White told reporters that the Wednesday crash was still being investigated, saying, "I think it’s important that we not necessarily draw direct correlations, but it is important that we have stable funding. That has been our message to the Congress and to the American people for the last several months."

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“Capabilities erode, and things are delayed. And so it’s very important, again, for the Congress to pass the FY-18 and FY-19 budgets soon,” she said.

Director of the Joint Staff, Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, said he was unsure how training might have affected the crash of the F/A-18 Super Hornet off the coast of Key West, Fla., but he said "readiness is absolutely at the center of what we’re doing right now."

“Pilots are going to be flying more and training is going to pick up,” he added.

When the fighter jet approached the naval air station in Key West on Wednesday afternoon to attempt to land, it instead hit the water about a mile from the runway.

The two crew members ejected and were pulled from the water, but both died. They have not yet been identified pending notification of their families.

The crash investigation will include a review of aircraft maintenance, aircraft flight hours, and an assessment of the physical condition of the two aircrew killed and their activities prior to the accident, according to The Associated Press.

The Super Hornet was based out of Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va.