Home » Budget Industry » Personnel Chief Tapped to Lead USS John S. McCain Investigation; Navy Leaders to Testify on Collisions Before Congress


Personnel Chief Tapped to Lead USS John S. McCain Investigation; Navy Leaders to Testify on Collisions Before Congress

Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) at it steers towards Changi Naval Base, Republic of Singapore following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC on Aug 21, 2017. US Navy Photo

The deputy head of Naval Personnel has been quietly tapped to lead an investigation into the collision between guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) and a chemical tanker near Singapore, Navy officials told USNI News on Thursday.

Rear Adm. Richard Brown, commander of Naval Personnel Command and Deputy Chief of Naval Personnel, will lead a dual admiralty and Judge Advocate General Manual (JAGMAN) investigation into the Aug. 21 collision between McCain and the Liberian-flagged chemical tanker Alnic MC, U.S. Pacific Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman

Rear Adm. Richard Brown.

The investigation is one of several examinations into the collision that resulted in the death of 10 sailors in the early morning as the destroyer navigated a crowded shipping lane in the Strait of Malacca.

However, like the dual-purpose investigation into the June 17 collision of USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) led by Rear Adm. Brian Fort, liability concerns for the U.S. will prevent public release of the results until the potential claims against the U.S. are settled, several officials confirmed to USNI News.

Brown is an experienced surface warfare officer with previous command of a destroyer and a cruiser.

“A Dual-Purpose investigation may be used to protect privileged information while allowing the investigation to be used for other official purposes (e.g., disciplinary action, safety),” according to the Navy’s JAG manual.

The early results of the dual-purpose investigation into the Fitzgerald collision resulted in the removal of the leadership triad of the destroyer and contributed to the removal of U.S. 7th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin. Both ships were part of 7th Fleet’s forward deployed naval forces (FDNF) based in Japan.

USS Fitzgerald pierside at the U.S. naval base at Yokosuka, Japan

Last month, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran told reporters the service would attempt to inform the families of Fitzgerald, the public and Congress as much as they could inside the bounds of the investigation.

In addition to the individual investigations into the collisions of Fitzgerald and McCain, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson has ordered a wider probe into Navy surface force operations in the Western Pacific to be led by U.S. Fleet Forces Commander Adm. Phil Davidson.

The Navy has identified four incidents this year – three collisions and one grounding – as the basis for the examination into Western Pacific operations.

Next week Moran will testify at a joint hearing by the House Armed Services readiness and seapower and projections forces subcommittees on the collisions, along with the author of a Government Accountability Office report on readiness and training shortfalls in the Navy’s FDNF ships. The following week, CNO Richardson and Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the subject of the collisions.

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran delivers remarks at the 2016 Future Strategy Forum at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., US Navy Photo

The Thursday House hearing was originally set to feature Commander of Naval Surface Forces Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, but the Navy elected to send Moran to the Hill instead, according to a Navy statement provided to USNI News.

“Given the Chief of Naval Operations’ direction on conducting a comprehensive review in the Navy and the precedent of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations testifying on readiness before the Congress, it was determined that Adm. Moran would be more appropriate to testify before the House Armed Services Committee, with the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee the following week,” read the statement.

  • Jim Crotty

    Sadly, I do believe we are starting to see the first outward stages of a U.S. Navy Cover-Up! It saddens and troubles me to come to that belief! I was hoping that in these two cases which included the loss of life of 17 Sailors that the Navy would step up to the plate and be totally transparent, but that hope is fading fast.

    • Duane

      I don’t think this indicates a cover up at all. There is a great deal of information that the Navy needs to acquire that has no business being in the public domain. These Arleigh Burkes are key naval assets that we do not want to give enemies intimate familiarity with their operating characteristics. As it is far too much info is already in the public domain.

      • Jim Crotty

        Sure, but how much of such information has anything to do with either crash. There is nothing super secret about radars or other piece of equipment and their general capabilities, for those items that might be used to detect and track surface contacts. One can read that in any number of reference books, including but not limited to Jane’s. It appears that the Navy will use the “fear of being held responsible in a maritime court” as justification to limit information about these collisions in particular how they happened and who was responsible. These collision were not your average bump in the nigh oops we scraped eventst, as they were collisions involving two technology advanced warships operated by Navy Sailors and something, in each case, went horribly wrong. The families, lawmakers and the public have a right to know exactly what went wrong, who was responsible for what and what if any punishment they received. In the case of the Fitzgerald, the Navy chose to administer punishment to those they chose via Flag Mast which is a private event with details not being released to the public. You have your opinion and I have mine and mine is that I’m starting to smell a rat and that rat is my beloved U.S. Navy and in particular the Leadership of the U.S. Navy.

        • Duane

          Well, your opinion is yours. I don’t believe that the American people smell a rat of any kind. The Navy is obviously embarrassed by the two collisions – nothing can cover that up. The Navy has already admitted fault on the Fitz collision, and if the fault is the McCain’s operators, then the Navy will do likewise. The Navy leadership knows that the only possible outcome of these investigations is to find the causes and correct them, because the Navy cannot afford to lose ships faster than they can be built, and the American people will not tolerate negligence by the Navy.

          • Jim Crotty

            Ok I’ll agree to disagree and the American people have shown they can and will tolerate anything especially when the government choses not to provide them with the detailed info to feel otherwise.

          • Veronica Cartier

            I am a regular American civilian to comment of increasing incidents against U.S. fleets and personnel which killed U.S. sailors, missing U.S. Sailors in Sulu, in the Indo-pacific region, and now death our Vice Admiral. I have difficulty to accept those incidents of U.S. Navy fleets and sailors, and Vice Admiral of natural deaths by recent theories. It is our challenges, it is our sorrow, and it is our responsibility not to quickly come to a conclusion without extend as far and deep investigation. The ‘unthinkable’ situation is a reality, Asia and Indo-pacific region I consider as a ‘Crime scene’, and it is our Navy being attacked. We have to come together focusing on every talent to work and be of your own investigator, instead of killing ourselves’ effort in the process of untangled the the cause of accident. The reasoning in accepting them have a very high price for U.S. military future. We are facing our best Navy in the world under attack right now. If I am as a civilian having difficulty to swallow all these increasing incidents how to accept them as they were naturally happened so there is nothing else to do further to untangle and finding out the truth. Each of us civilian and every sailor, officers should act as an intelligent to provide any information and research as a team to keep U.S. Navy as the Sea power superiority in the world. No superiority label validate, if the sailors, officer got killed easily, and the Officer suicide?? I believe our Navy personnel, sailors, Officers, military Commanders in general are the unbeatable War Horses. I am here not to criticize but mourning with our Navy, and Military operation; and be apart to provide support of any kind I could possibly do to strengthen mentally, spiritually as I am getting to realize that more and more mental games taking part as the motor to weaken U.S. Military world wide. We build our own confidence to overcome soon or later. In the mean time, I SALUTE EACH OF THE NAVY AND MILITARY SERVING THIS COUNTRY ESPECIALLY TO THE FAMILIES OF HEROES KNOWN OR UNKNOWN AND TO THE VETERANS’ FOR ALL SACRIFICES YOU HAVE MADE.

          • James Thur

            The “American people” may not smell a rat, but those of us with experience in the Navy sure do. When large government organizations get embarrassed, a cover-up follows.

          • Duane

            There is nothing to cover up. The collisions are the collisions. Even if the Navy bureaucracy has a built in self-protection bias (as all bureaucracies do), the cat’s already out of the bag. The only possible outcome that is positive is to find and fix what’s wrong, or the embarrassment will continue and the American people and Congress will run out of patience. It’s called “self preservation”.

  • Philip Palmer

    There will be a lessons learned summary evaluation following the conclusion of the investigations. The investigations of the two recent collisions are still in progress even though initial findings have resulted in punative measures. Much of the fleet should stand by for some heavy rolls. There will be training shake ups, some driven in house by COs looking to unearth any training flaws within their own commands’ programs.

  • Paul Stanley

    OK, from the armchair of a former OOD. There has been quite a bit of rhetoric published & discussed about lack of materials (repair items), lack of training, pace of operations, lack of formal on-shore schooling, lack of sleep/rest, dependence on electronic sensors and automated charts & calculations, etc.
    = = = =
    B…S…!
    = = = =
    The CO is responsible for managing and setting the operational tone aboard ship, and the safety of the crew and ship.

    Equipment casualties are reported up the chain. If senior leadership wants to order the ship
    to sea for an evolution so be it. Ya improvise or change the way ya do things.

    If there is a lack of crew training, the Chiefs and other senior petty officers step-in and ensure that every watch stander is brought to a level of competency.

    If the navigation and ship handling skills are not where they should be for the bridge watch-standers (OOD & JOOD), then the CO (and presumably XO, along with competent department heads step in to ensure that) objectives are met.
    = = =
    Sure, it may mean that the CO & XO (and a few others) are also on the bridge at times to observe and offer counsel.
    = = =
    Sure, there can be sleep deprivation, but why do we have division officers, department heads, etc.? Should they not make sure that even with high tempo evolutions that crew members get sleep and adequate meals.
    = = =
    My buddy was an XO in an intense and long running evolution. The CO spent much of his time (days) on the bridge – overseeing. A few senior chiefs approached my friend, the XO, and suggested that the CO himself was over-tired and that perhaps not thinking clearly due to exhaustion. My friend, the XO, then met with the CO who understood and changed his behavior.
    = = =
    Teamwork takes everyone.
    = = =

    Perhaps the “fear factor” has kicked-in — fear of calling the CO when ya need to call the CO, as ya don’t want to be labled as incompetent / inadequate?
    = = =
    Very very sad situations.

  • James Thur

    Bad decision. The OIC should be a retired SWO Flag Officer who has the guts to tell the truth.

  • Peter Müller

    I’m not in the Navy, only a hobby sailor. I have crossed busy waters such as the Atlantic, the North Sea, the English channel, the Gibraltar strait – even by night. Conducting a ship is conducting a ship regardless of all electronic gadgets. There must have been inattention (sleep?) on at least 3 levels.
    First on the radar. Don’t tell about possible radar failure. There is not one radar on a warship, there are multiple and redundant ones. Well trained radar observers recognize a collision course.
    Second level is the AIS, a much more precise and informative collision prevention system than radar. It was turned off at the Fitzgerald. A foolish thing to do. I understand that a warship does not want to disclose its position – if at war. But there is actually no war, not even a maneuver. And don’t tell me they could not operate AIS in receive mode only or put in a fake identity. Navigating by night in such a busy waterway without AIS is like the attempt to cross an expressway blindfolded on food.
    Third level is the visual outlook. I know, at night it is very difficult to distinguish between all the lights from other vessels and to estimate distances. But also here – training, training, training!

  • vietvet1968

    Crew at fault…bs…look at the tracking of the the container ship and oil tanker..their paths before and after the hit makes no sense if you consider an accident. ..the destroyers were Rammed…

    • Niki Ptt

      Well, for USS Fitzgerald it has already been proved the destroyer’s crew was entirely at fault here, and the Navy already issued a statement endorsing the full responsability.

      The USS Mc Cain’s accident is still under investigation.

  • Jim Crotty

    It’s time that EVERY Admiral appointed to his/her current position by abdullah hussein obama be relieved of their duties and shown the door!