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Navy Fires 2 More Top Officers As Investigations Into 7th Fleet Mishaps Continue
The Navy’s top admiral in charge of surface forces is retiring early, and two major 7th Fleet commanders have been fired, part of the service’s latest efforts to clean house after a string of serious shipboard mishaps that have left 17 sailors dead this year, according to news reports.
Rear Adm. Charles Williams — commander of Combined Task Force 70 and Carrier Strike Group 5, which oversee forward-deployed naval forces in the Pacific — and his subordinate Capt. Jeffery Bennett — commodore of Destroyer Squadron 15, which includes the ill-fated USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald — were relieved “due to a loss of confidence in their ability to command” Sep. 18, Navy officials confirmed to USNI News this morning.
Rear Adm. Marc Dalton, commander of Task Force 7, will take over for Williams at CTF-70, and Capt. Jonathan Duffy, deputy commander, DESRON-15, will assume command of Bennett’s squadron, the Navy also announced Monday morning.
The firings were approved by Vice Adm. Philip Sawyer, the 7th Fleet commander who was installed last month after his predecessor was held accountable for the fatal McCain and Fitzgerald collisions, as well as two earlier 2017 accidents, a grounding and a collision involving U.S. guided missile cruisers.
The personnel shuffle came in addition to a request by Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, commander of U.S. Naval Surface Forces, to retire two months ahead of schedule to “allow for new leadership” of the surface fleet, officials told USNI News.
Williams and Bennett’s firings mark the fifth and sixth dismissals in 7th Fleet in connection with the recent spate of shipboard incidents. Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the highly respected 7th Fleet commander, yielded his command to Sawyer in August, just days after the captain, executive officer, and command master chief of the Fitzgerald were relieved of their positions.
More changes are expected soon, as major investigations into each mishap and the Navy’s general readiness posture wind to completion. On Sept. 19, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson are scheduled to testify about “Recent United States Navy Incidents At Sea” before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
They are set to appear with John Pendleton, leader of a General Accounting Office study released Sep. 7 that blasts the Navy for “persistent training, maintenance, and other issues” that could have contributed to low-readiness and higher risk of collisions and groundings.
“We believe that, until the Navy makes the needed changes, its ships may not have the right number and skill mix of sailors to maintain readiness and prevent overworking its sailors,” the GAO report concluded.
The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act would allow service members to seek compensation when military doctors make mistakes that harm them, but they would still be unable to file medical malpractice lawsuits against the federal government.
On Monday night, Congress announced that it had finalized the NDAA, which must be passed by the House and Senate before going to President Donald Trump. If the president signs the NDAA into law, it would mark the first time in nearly seven decades that U.S. military personnel have had legal recourse to seek payment from the military in cases of medical malpractice.
A major serving at U.S. Army Cyber Command has been charged with distributing child pornography, according to the Justice Department.
Maj. Jason Michael Musgrove, who is based at Fort Gordon, Georgia, has been remanded to the U.S. Marshals service, a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia says.
Navy senior leaders could decide whether or not to approve the new I-Boot 5 early in 2020, said Rob Carroll, director of the uniform matters office at the Chief of Naval Personnel's office.
"The I-Boot 5 is currently wrapping up its actual wear test, its evaluation," Carroll told Task & Purpose on Monday. "We're hoping that within the first quarter of calendar year 2020 that we'll be able to present leadership with the information that they need to make an informed decision."
Oklahoma Congresspeople slam private housing contractor at Tinker Air Force Base for negligence, fraud
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn leveled harsh criticism last week at the contractor accused of negligence and fraudulent activity while operating private housing at Tinker Air Force Base and other military installations.
Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, referred to Balfour Beatty Communities as "notorious." Horn, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told a company executive she was "incredibly disappointed you have failed to live up to your responsibility for taking care of the people that are living in these houses."
The Saudi national who killed three students on a U.S. Naval Air station in Pensacola was in the United States on a training exchange program.
On Sunday, Sen. Rick Scott said the United States should suspend that program, which brings foreign nationals to America for military training, pending a "full review."