The commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer Fitzgerald during a 2017 collision that killed seven sailors, now faces a Navy board of inquiry, Cmdr. Bryce Benson’s attorney told Navy Times.

Cmdr. Justin Henderson said that officials notified him and Benson about the BOI on Friday.

The tribunal will weigh whether Benson should be separated for misconduct or substandard job performance, but Henderson said they weren’t told which track the BOI will take.

According to Navy regulations, a BOI offers officers a hearing so they can rebut allegations that could cause them to be separated from the service.

News of the upcoming BOI was published first by Task and Purpose.

Benson’s BOI comes in the wake of the Navy’s April 11 announcement that it was dropping criminal charges against Benson, who was awaiting a court-martial trial for dereliction in the performance of duties through negligence resulting in death and improper hazarding of a vessel.

The Navy’s legal retreat followed a military judge’s ruling that then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and former VCNO Adm. Bill Moran had committed unlawful command influence during Benson’s case, thanks to public statements they made about his purported guilt.

Before Benson faced court-martial, he had been disciplined administratively in connection to the collision.

“Like all of the Navy’s other decisions in this case, this news is disappointing,” Henderson said of the BOI notification.

Chief of Navy Personnel spokeswoman Capt. Amy Derrick declined to comment on the development.

“Because of privacy concerns, we do not comment on individual personnel matters,” she said in an email to Navy Times.

Benson hit the 20-year retirement mark in May and also awaits a medical retirement due to injuries he sustained in the 2017 mishap, Henderson said.

A commercial vessel, the ACX Crystal collided with the Fitz off Japan on June 17, 2017, tearing into Benson’s quarters while he was asleep there.

Benson suffered a head injury and had to be evacuated from the warship for medical care.

An adverse ruling by the board could force Benson to retire as a lieutenant commander, which would trim his retirement pay.

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer issued a letter of censure against Benson in April, citing his “poor judgement and ineffective leadership” as causal factors in the deadly mishap.

The damaged living quarters of the warship Fitzgerald's CO, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, after a fatal 2017 collision. (Photo provided to Navy Times)
The damaged living quarters of the warship Fitzgerald's CO, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, after a fatal 2017 collision. (Photo provided to Navy Times)

In a rebuttal, Benson argued he made the most prudent decisions he could while leading the destroyer, even as the crew grappled with systemic challenges that dogged other warships in the Japan-based 7th Fleet.

A number of investigations — including a scathing internal probe obtained by Navy Times — pummeled the sea service for manning shortages, maintenance delays and a frenzied tempo of operations in the Fitz’s destroyer squadron and across the Japan-based 7th Fleet.

Henderson said “there is no chance there will be any finding adverse” to Benson at his BOI.

“He didn’t commit any misconduct,” Henderson said. “As he’s explained in response to the secretary’s letter of censure, his actions in command were reasonable under the circumstances.”