Navy fires commodore of destroyer squadron for ‘loss of confidence’

Capt. William Harkin is the third naval commander removed this year.
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Capt. William Harkin (photo by Trish Nelson/courtesy U.S. Navy)

The head of the U.S. Navy’s Destroyer Squadron 2 was relieved of command due to “a loss of confidence in Capt. Harkin’s ability to perform his duties,” the Navy announced today. 

Capt. William McCormack Harkin (or “Mac” Harkin as the Navy occasionally referred to him) had been in charge of the squadron for only a year. He took command of Destroyer Squadron 2 on Feb. 17, 2023 after serving as the deputy commodore. Rear Adm. Erik Eslich, the head of Carrier Strike Group 12 which the destroyer squadron is a part of, relieved Harkin of command.

In the majority of such instances, the Navy does not give a specific reason for why an officer would be removed from a command role. A “loss of confidence” is the catchall term the Navy prefers to use in these situations, even if the actual issues differ case to case.

“Navy leaders are held to high standards of personal and professional conduct, both on and off duty. They are expected to uphold the highest standards of responsibility, reliability, and leadership, and the Navy holds them accountable,” the Navy said in its statement. 

Harkin, a New York state native, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1999. Since then he has held several command roles in the U.S. Navy, including the USS Bulkeley (DDG-84), USS Sirocco (PC-6), and USS Hurricane (PC-3), among others. He also previously commanded Afloat Training Group Norfolk. Harkin himself had briefly reassumed command of the USS Bulkeley in 2022 after its commander was relieved of duty, again for “loss of confidence.”

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Capt. James Von St. Paul, the deputy commodore of the squadron, is taking over commodore duties for now. The Navy said that the change in command will not affect the squadron’s mission

Harkin has been “temporarily reassigned” to the command staff of Naval Surface Force Atlantic, the Navy said in its statement.

Harkin is the third Navy commander to be relieved of duty this year. Of the other two fired officers, one was relieved for a similarly vague “loss of confidence” while the other was removed after a DUI arrest. Last year the Navy relieved 16 commanding officers from their roles. Of those, 14 were fired with a “loss of confidence” as the only reason given.

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