Tuesday, September 26, 2017

McCain and Fitzgerald Collisions and Repercussions

ComNavOps has called for a complete and total housecleaning by firing every Admiral and staff member in the 7th Fleet chain of command as one response to the rash of collisions and groundings the fleet has experienced.  While the housecleaning has not anywhere near approached that level, I do note that several figures have paid for their gross negligence.  Here’s the current list of personnel who have been fired.

  • 7th Fleet Commander VAdm. Joseph Aucoin
  • Task Force 70 commander Rear Adm. Charles Williams
  • Destroyer Squadron 15 commander Capt. Jeffrey Bennett
  • USS Fitzgerald CO Cmdr. Bryce Benson
  • USS Fitzgerald XO Cmdr. Sean Babbitt
  • USS Fitzgerald CMC Brice Baldwin

In addition, two admirals have put in for early retirement.  Reading only slightly between the lines, both were likely given the option to retire or be fired.

  • Naval Surface Forces commander VAdm. Thomas Rowden
  • Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Scott Swift

I would like to see CNO Richardson accept responsibility for the avoidable deaths of US Navy sailors and resign.  Failing that, Congress and/or SecNav ought to fire him.

This is nowhere near the total housecleaning that is needed but it is more severe than the usual tepid Navy response such as after the Iranian seizure of our riverine boats.  I would like to see the entire chain of command stand trial for negligent homicide.  Absent that, hopefully, this will prompt other Navy leaders to take their duties a bit more seriously.


  1. Hi CNO,

    Not being in the service I don't understand the CMC getting fired. It seems he was following his CO's lead, and is that not he job?

    Or is he being held accountable for the performance of the ratings on the bridge? This seems a bit misguided to me as the ratings were under the direction of officers at the time of the accident.

    1. The CMC is responsible for training (per fleet guidelines and CO directives) of personnel. He is the "hands" that execute the required training. He is responsible for the performance of the enlisted personnel. He is also responsible for keeping the CO informed about the level of performance of the enlisted, the quality of their various practices and procedures, and the overall readiness of the crew. If there is a failing, such as a collision, it is on the CMC as much as the officers.

    2. What went wrong on the McCain and Fitzgerald didn't suddenly happen, one time, in some fluke event. The failings occurred repeatedly, over time, time after time, with more and more failings occurring more and more often. Training fell by the wayside and small problems grew. Eventually, they culminated in a collision but you can be sure that was not the first time the crew lost situational awareness. All the officers and the CMC had ample opportunities to see and correct the problems before the day of the disaster. They failed to do so.

      Same thing with the Farsi Island incident when the Iranians seized our boats and crews. Those crews weren't performing flawlessly, day after day, and then suddenly, all at once, made a hundred mistakes during one evolution. No, they were screwing up routinely for months or years and it finally caught up with them in one incident.

  2. Thank you. That was an excellent and succinct explanation. Part of the reason I have you book marked.

    So the way to see the CMC's firing is that he did not train the crew to standard. He was not held accountable by his CO for the lapse in discipline, and it grew until it was almost impossible to run something as complex as a warship without an accident happening. I would also guess that the probability of an accident was increasing at a rapid rate.

    Do you have any recommended reading on how a ship should be run and how to train men to do it? I have read a fair bit about land warfare, but really don't know much about naval warfare, and I have a feeling it will become a bigger part of the national conversation as China, India, and Russia start to spread their wings.

    1. CNO, The link below is stating that CO and XO were fired but, not the CBC. Any reason why USS McCain's CMC was spared? The article specifically mentioned that training was not upheld to the Navy standards.

  3. It is reported in the New York times the navy knew bout these concerns in 2010 and was also told about them by various agencies also they are returning to charts and compasses along keeping all noncertified seaman ashore as well as turning on ship Id signals in congested waters all this is basic stuff even a weekend boater should know I'm a local lake

  4. ComNavOps, I read your response about the CMC's responsibility to ensure training was properly conducted that is why the USS FITZ CMC was fired. I just saw today that both CO and XO of USS McCain were relieved but not the CBC. The article in the Navy Times even stated a lack of training for the crew. Any insights of the inconsistency of the decision?

    1. No. The Navy may have determined that the CMC was doing his best in the face of other, overriding problems. I don't know.

    2. ComNavOps, I appreciate your honesty in answering my question. Saying "I don't know." Is much better than getting a BS response. I just wished it was explained on why the decision was made that way. I think it is unfair for the CMC of the USS FITZ and if there is a good reason for the USS MCCAIN'S CMC not getting fired then it should be shared so future CMCs can use this to be successful in dodging the bullet.

  5. Looking back over these incidents reminds me of something that I have wondered about in the past.

    Many foreign navies break down what we call line officers into two categories--deck and engineering. The deck officers are responsible for navigating and fighting the ship and military functions, while engineering officers are responsible for operating the ship. In some cases, the XO function is broken down between what we may call First Lieutenant (to whom deck officers report) and Chief Engineer (to whom engineering officers report). This permits the deck officers to focus more on seamanship and the like, and engineering officers to become more specialized and better versed in their areas. As for career paths, deck officers go through the command at sea route, while engineering officers move to command of repair and maintenance, something like old BuShips, and other shore commands. I haven't thought through all the details, and I'm sure it's not a panacea, but could see how it might help address issues we are having in several areas, including seamanship, maintenance, training, and ship design.


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