Various branches of the military have seen numerous aviation crashes – some of which have been fatal – over the past few years. These accidents represent a disturbing trend that servicemembers and Congress are anxiously trying to solve.

Just this past May, a Lockheed WC-130H transport aircraft crashed shortly after departing the Savannah Air National Guard Base, killing all nine members of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard on board. In March, two Navy aviators died after their FA-18 fighter jet crashed near Key West, Florida, CNN reported. So far this fiscal year, 12 accidents (consisting of 11 crashes and one incident on the ground) have claimed the lives of 35 servicemembers, tying the start of 2018 with 2016's total number of aviator deaths. 

Unfortunately, these issues have lingered for years, and some connect them to the 2013 congressional budget cuts, per Military Times.

"We are reaping the benefits – or the tragedies – that we got into back in sequestration," said retired Air Force General Herbert Carlisle, according to the publication. 

According to data Military Times obtained through multiple Freedom of Information requests, the number of aviation accidents increased by nearly 40 percent since 2013. Since 2011, more than 7,500 incidents ranging from Class A through Class C have occurred. 

Several federal departments are looking into aviation crashes to prevent them moving forward.Several federal departments are looking into these crashes to prevent them moving forward.

Various departments taking action to address crashes

Despite the data, the Department of Defense has clarified that these incidents shouldn't be considered a crisis. Yet, many military branches are investigating the cause of these accidents, although they echo the DoD's statement. For example, General Ellen Pawlikowski, head of the Air Force Materiel Command, recently sent a memo telling its safety organizations to review all aircrafts by the middle of July, according to Air Force Times.

"Take another look at that data from a different angle and see if there is anything that we are missing in there that would help us to predict what might be the next mishap," she said to reporters, according to the publication. "I think how the Air Force has approached this is not to panic. We don't consider it a crisis, but we have elevated [interest] in making sure that we aren't missing anything and that we really do empower the airmen to make sure that safety is always first."

Pawlikowski also objected to the idea that the crashes are directly related to the 2013 budget cuts. She said that instead of operating an aircraft in need of maintenance – a difficult task when money is tight – the Air Force would simply ground the plane to protect servicemembers. 

Additionally, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein ordered all flying and maintenance wings to participate in a one-day safety stand down, according to a separate Military Times article. Active-duty units had a deadline of May 21 to conduct their review, while Guard and Reserve have until June 25. 

That said, Congress might soon push the military to do more in its investigation over the coming years. Democratic Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced legislation early May that would create an independent panel tasked with examining the string of crashes. Titled the National Commission on Military Aviation Safety, the panel would consist of eight people who would look into the possible causes of these incidents and, if necessary, recommend any modifications to training, maintenance, safety or other policies. Their first report would be due Feb. 1, 2020. Panelists would be appointed by the president and certain members of Congress.