Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said an in-depth review of 7th Fleet operations ordered by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson Monday will hunt for any systemic issues that could have contributed to two devastating ship collisions in the last two months.
On Sunday the Navy destroyer John S. McCain collided with a merchant ship east of the Malacca Straits off the coast of Singapore. Ten sailors were still missing and five injured in the collision with the Liberian-flagged merchant vessel Alnic MC.
On June 17 the destroyer Fitzgerald collided with a container ship off the coast of the Japan, killing seven sailors. Both destroyers are part of 7th Fleet.
On Monday Richardson announced the Navy would conduct an operational pause to look at the Yokosuka, Japan-based 7th Fleet’s operations.
“The Chief of Naval Operations’ broader inquiry will look at all related accidents, incidents at sea, that sort of thing. He is going to look at all factors, not just the immediate ones — that will fall rightly under the fleet commanders investigation of what happened to his ship. This is a broader look at what is happening,” Mattis said to reporters traveling with him in Jordan.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the sailors and the families of the USS John McCain. We obviously have an investigation underway and that will determine what happened,” Mattis said.
The fleet-wide inquiry ordered by Richardson will “look into these incidents and to determine any of the causal factors to determine what’s going on, both immediate contributors to this incident but also any related factors. Once we have those facts we’ll share them with you,” Mattis said.
Tara Copp is the Pentagon Bureau Chief for Military Times and author of the award-winning military nonfiction "The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story."