The Navy last week officially established a new overseas command that will work to ensure that Japan-based ships get the maintenance, training and certification they need.

Answering to Naval Surface Force Pacific, the Naval Surface Group Western Pacific was first announced last fall.

While the group is touted as a way to help rectify the readiness issues in the West Pacific’s 7th Fleet that came to light after two fatal ship collisions killed 17 sailors last summer, a strategic review ordered by Navy Secretary Richard Spencer called it out by name as another example of unnecessary Navy bureaucracy.

Navy admirals said the group will help eliminate ambiguities of authority, but the review argued it would do just the opposite.

“The Strategic Review does not concur with establishment of Naval Surface Group West Pacific,” the report states. “Standing up an additional oversight layer provides another headquarters staff and administrative control function that is likely to perpetuate ambiguous and conflicting authorities.”

Spencer acknowledged in December that the new command was at odds with the review’s call for lesser bureaucracy.

“I have to admit, it didn’t dovetail perfectly,” he said, adding that such initiatives would be reviewed.

“I’m not in a position to say we’re going to tear it apart,” Spencer said at the time.

The new command will manage ship activities during the maintenance and basic phase, while enforcing the readiness assessment and certification process, according to a Navy statement.

It will also coordinate with the ship’s commander until the ship is certified Basic Phase Complete by Naval Surface Force Pacific in an effort to bring formalized structure back to 7th Fleet maintenance.

The group’s first commander will be Capt. Rich Dromerhauser.

He will oversee efforts to ensure every Japan-based ship receives maintenance and training before recommending whether the ship is ready to go.

“My team will be focused on enabling ships to achieve certified levels of readiness and a demonstrated ability to safely conduct operations at sea after extended periods of maintenance and modernization efforts,” he said in a statement. “We owe it to our Sailors to provide them the focused training, system maintenance, and modernization that builds competence and confidence in themselves, their Shipmates, and their equipment.”

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at

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