Home » Education Legislation » Pacific Fleet Head Adm. Scott Swift Publicly Announces Request to Retire; PACOM Succession Unclear


Pacific Fleet Head Adm. Scott Swift Publicly Announces Request to Retire; PACOM Succession Unclear

Adm. Scott H. Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, walks through the side boys during the Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC) change of command ceremony aboard the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Jacksonville (SSN-699) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Sept. 11, 2017. US Navy Photo

The head of U.S. Navy forces in the Pacific has requested to retire after being informed he is not the Navy’s choice to take over U.S. Pacific Command, according to a statement provided to USNI News late Monday.

Adm. Scott Swift said he asked Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson to retire from the service after Richardson told him he was not the Navy’s choice to replace Adm. Harry Harris as the next commander of PACOM.

“I have been informed by the Chief of Naval Operations that I will not be his nominee to replace Adm. Harris as the commander, U.S. Pacific Command. In keeping with tradition and in loyalty to the Navy, I have submitted my request to retire,” he wrote in a statement posted to his Facebook page.
“Submitting this request now is done with an abundance of respect and admiration for the CNO and his leadership, as well as for the Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] and Secretary of Defense as both of them face the challenge of selecting someone to step into the leadership role Adm. Harris has filled with such distinction over the last three years.”

Swift said he has not requested a specific date to leave and will stay on as long as desired by Pentagon and Navy leadership.

Adm. Harry B. Harris, commander, U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), provides U.S. Naval War College students, staff and faculty with an overview of the PACOM theatre during a visit to the college on April 28, 2017. US Navy Photo

“Adm. Swift has been leading our Navy and inspiring Sailors for nearly 40 years. Countless sailors and their families have benefitted from his inspired leadership,” Richardson said in a Monday night statement to USNI News.
“The Navy is grateful to him and his family for their dedicated service. I look forward to continuing to serve together as he leads our fleet in the Pacific.”

The announcement from Swift comes as a surprise to those familiar with discussions on Harris’ replacement, several sources confirmed to USNI News.

One defense official with knowledge of the PACOM succession strategy said as late as last week Swift was the “odds-on favorite” to take charge of the U.S. military in the Pacific.

Swift’s requested exit from the service comes as the Navy is in the midst of several investigations following two fatal collisions between U.S. warships and merchant ships that have resulted in the deaths of 17 sailors and hundreds of millions in damages.

While the investigations are ongoing and no conclusions have been released, a repeated pattern of readiness failings, high operational tempo, lapsed certifications, an insatiable demand for ships and a cultural reluctance not to refuse taskings have come up in two hearings before Congress this month.

So far, six Navy officials have been removed from their positions as a result of accountability actions that are part of a series of investigations into the fatal collisions.

It’s unclear if Swift’s retirement request was related to the ongoing investigation.

Several defense sources told USNI News that with Swift now out of the running, Richardson will likely put forward U.S. Fleet Forces commander Adm. Phil Davidson as the Navy’s choice to lead PACOM. Davidson is also leading the CNO-ordered review into operations in the Western Pacific related to the collisions.

However, the same sources also said the current commander of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, is a strong candidate to be the first Air Force officer to take over the position that has been continuously held by U.S. Navy flag officers since 1947.

U.S. Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) commander, meets with reporters during a visit to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Aug. 25, 2017. US Air Force Photo

The following is the complete Sept. 25, 2017 statement from Adm. Scott Swift.

I have been informed by the Chief of Naval Operations that I will not be his nominee to replace Adm. Harris as the Commander, U.S. Pacific Command. In keeping with tradition and in loyalty to the Navy, I have submitted my request to retire. I do so with great appreciation and gratitude for the honor of having served so many Sailors and their families for what will be 40 years in January.

Submitting this request now is done with an abundance of respect and admiration for the CNO and his leadership, as well as for the Chairman and Secretary of Defense as both of them face the challenge of selecting someone to step into the leadership role Adm. Harris has filled with such distinction over the last three years.

I have not requested a retirement date as there is much work to be done here in the Pacific area of responsibility.

Whether my timeline of remaining service is six weeks or six months, I will fill that time with the energy of an Ensign and the wisdom drawn from the 140,000 Sailors who report for duty every morning in the Pacific Fleet.

 

  • Nothing wrong with AF leading PACOM, until you get all the inter-service rivalry

    • TransformerSWO

      Remember the last time this was tried? Sen McCain threw a fit, GEN Martin was tarred with the Boeing tanker brush, and ADM Fallon became PACOM. No way was an AF guy getting his dad’s old job.

      • DaSaint

        You’re probably right!

  • CharleyA

    The fallout continues.

  • Curtis Conway

    I could stand a USAF general as U.S. Pacific Command, but he would have to have very strong Joint credentials with lots of experience. There are a few USAF Command Pilots out there who knew the USN equipment as well as the US Naval Aviators. To that man/woman I would give a shot. Particularly if he had any carrier time. We shall see.

    • This_isnotreal

      They all have to have joint experience to be promoted to Flag and General ranks.

      • Curtis Conway

        A signed document of fulfilling a Joint Tour requirement does not a Joint Troop make, and team player, make in the greater defense apparatus. Dealing with aircraft carriers in a greater AOR context requires experience, and understanding. Many USAF flag officers are anti-carrier by nature for it has been institutionalized in some parts of the Air Force.

        • Masau80

          The discussion was about ADM Swift relieving ADM Harris at PACOM – a Joint Command, not a Navy Command. All the Unified Commands have a Maritime Component, so having an Air Force or Army General as PACOM would not be any different than EUCOM or CENTCOM – except that PACOM has always been a Navy command due to the nature of the theater. PACFLT as the Maritime Component of PACOM would provide the appropriate leadership under PACOM.

          • Curtis Conway

            ” . . . except that PACOM has always been a Navy command due to the nature of the theater.” I wonder what that UNIQUE nature would be?

          • Masau80

            Read any military history book – it will be patently obvious.

          • Curtis Conway

            Well, I don’t know about the Mogul Horde, but Alexander the Great and Hannibal had navies and understood the fundamentals. Great Britain and Spain have ebbed and flowed. Young Warriors study Tactics, and Old Warriors study Logistics. Being a Unified Combatant Commander requires talents, a disparate understanding of things Joint Combat Experience, and understanding of the environment across the board. The US Military and our Allies are a Joint construct. That is what the 1,000 ship Navy is all about. Unfortunately we still have some USAF generals who think in terms of a 1,000 bomber air force (only), and not enough of anyone thinking about “He who owns the Electro-Magnetic Environment (full spectrum) will win the next war”.

          • Secundius

            As I recall Sun Tzu wrote “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” The same applies today in 2017 as it did in the 5th century BC, learn Nothing and DIE…

        • This_isnotreal

          Very true which is why unified command commanders also have 4-star commanders of each of the services as component commanders that report to them on the deployment of their respective services. The joint tours merely gets them exposure.

  • Paul 2

    “Adm. Scott Swift said he asked Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson to retire..”

    He asked the CNO to retire. (lol he said, poking fun at editors)

  • FromTheMirror

    “…the current commander of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, is a strong candidate to be the first Air Force officer to take over the position that has been continuously held by U.S. Navy flag officers since 1947…” – now if that happens : would we see that happening if those recent collisions had not occurred?

  • Eric Arllen

    “Count not upon certain promotion, but rather to gain it aspire.
    “Though the sight line may end on the target, there cometh, perchance, the misfire.”

    Or the grounding and collisions.

  • NavySubNuke

    He also posted this to facebook. Sad to see that rather than retiring with dignity he chose to take one last opportunity to preen and try to define his own destiny.
    What is it about aviators that makes them all such prima donnas?
    It will be interesting to see who steps up to fill this slot – the leadership cupboard is getting bearer and bearer these days which is how Richardson ended up as CNO in the first place instead of retiring out of NR like every other NAVSEA 08 before him.

  • b2

    At least ADM Swift was a carrier aviator with many ship tours (IE- at sea like a sailor..CO, CSG, etc.) behind him unlike the present PACOM who was a P-3 TACCO and never served aboard or commanded a ship or even stood OOD underway….. That’s a fact, jack although he may be a good officer, it displays how far we have gotten “off the reservation” re who is fundamentally qualified for what position… This is the result 8 years or more of PC and “change” and today we have the wrong mix at all levels of all the services.
    Putting an USAF dude in charge of PACOM, now, when two competitor Navies (us and the CHICOMS) are posturing for a green/bluewater rivalry in westpac would just be more PC for change B.S… I hope Sec. Mattis considers that deeply….

    • Masau80

      What does standing OOD underway have to do with being PACOM? FYI, ADM Swift never stood OOD watches and never commanded a ship either. ADM Harris has commanded a squadron, a wing, a numbered fleet (which has a flagship), and Pacific Fleet. He also has stood underway watches as a TAO aboard Saratoga. ADM Swift has commanded a squadron, an air wing, a strike group, a numbered fleet, and Pacific Fleet. Seems remarkably similar. the Air Force guy has done none of that other than command a squadron and wing. The PACOM AOR is Navy-centric by default. The warfare designator of the commander is really not a consideration at this point – every 4-star has commanded across all warfare areas – it is one of the main reasons why they have 4 stars.

      • b2

        Re Sea Duty and being a Naval Officer Line- It means everything. To actually be embarked and live aboard a ship in the operating environment for months at a time accumulating into years is the primary backbone of a Naval Officer. Ships ARE the Navy. One tour does not a Sailor make, particularly a TAO.. Swift commanded a Carrier Strike Group and flew jets off carriers as CAG for many deployments where he probably had to qualify for OOD… ADM Harris is a P-3 tube rat made into a fleet commander by an administration wanting to shake things up. He is not a bad officer, on the contrary he has excelled but that doesn’t diminish the facts of experimentation by the last administration…

        re “every 4-star has commanded across all warfare areas” Not true.

        The same “change for change sake” as making a C-130 pilot the Chief of staff of the USAF, or the VCNO of the US Navy a P-3 pilot with zero sea duty…., these are the facts of the past 8 years- I am not making this up. if you don’t think it matters about sea duty sobeit, I do.
        Bottom line is ADM Swift is more traditionally qualified as a naval officer to be PACOM than ADM Harris. That is my point and has nothing to do with why he retired.. As CINCPAC the next in line to retire is CNO himself, an SSBN driver he should go also. What I do notice is that Swift and Aucoin are not Naval Academy grads…that has a lot to do with things……

        • Masau80

          First of all – CAGs rarely fly. Second, NO O-6 stands OOD. Third, unless someone is Ships Company, they never stand or qualify as OOD (ADM Swift does not wear a second warfare designation insignia). Being a CAG, vice a Patrol Wing Commander (in the PACOM AOR) is then your sole argument for Swift being more “qualified?” I think they are both exceptionally qualified and their performance to date has been impeccable – certainly both as PACFLT.

          The real questions will come when we see who is eventually nominated to be the next PACOM – assuming that it will be a Navy Officer, it will be someone who has not had recent Echelon II command experience in PACOM.

          • This_isnotreal

            “No O6 stands OOD” – true. If required for professional development they would have stood it long before then. “Unless someone is Ships Company, they never stand or qualify as OOD” – wrong. All carrier COs and XOs are Naval Flight Officers who have earned their command at sea quals of which OOD is one component. When the wings, squadrons, etc embark a carrier or smaller ships the pilots are rotated through the shipboard watchbills so that they can complete their professional/milestone quals.

          • Masau80

            No, embarked squadron junior officers do not, and can not stand shipboard watches – their job is to fly. There is no professional requirement to gain additional qualifications outside their designator. Carrier COs, by command designation are ultimately responsible for all facets of operating the ship – including driving it. That being said, they are not required to achieve OOD or SWO designations – Being CO is an “OOD” designation. Neither ADM Harris or ADM Swift were ever carrier COs. Interesting note – the current CO of Theodore Roosevelt is a P-3 NFO.

          • Curtis Conway

            And every carrier CO is a Naval Aviator.

          • This_isnotreal

            If you truly believe that squadron pilots don’t stand OOD you are very misguided in your beliefs. Also, I didn’t specifically comment about ADMs Harris or Swift, but I did specifically state CO’s were NFOs, primarily as an example of why they would need an OOD qualification. NFOs don’t know early enough in their career what their path will take; i.e., carrier CO, etc.

          • Masau80

            Any aviator you may see standing a bridge watch (or CIC) on a carrier is a ship’s company officer, not an embarked aviator. It may be an occasion on a DDG or CG, but those are helo pilots – although I would thing that any one volunteering to stand bridge watches is by far the exception and not the norm. There is no career advantage to doing so. Carrier COs can be either a Naval Aviator or a Naval Flight Officer – at that point in their career, either designator suffices.

          • This_isnotreal

            You are absolutely wrong, but I’ve grown bored with these retorts. Lets agree to disagree.

          • Masau80

            Way back in the day, this may have happened… in today’s Navy it doesn’t. the air wing is fully employed being aviators. Anyone on the bridge standing watch with wings on their uniform are ship’s company.

          • james flynn

            Jogged my memory. One of the finest mariners I served with was a former Marine gunner ( USS
            West Virginia at Pearl Harbor) . Finished the war as gunnery officer on several ‘Big Jobs’ . Later, wounded at Inchon, he was retired.Captain Charlie Merrell had acquired enough OOD watches on the Navy’s ‘Big Jobs’ to sit for a Merchant Marine third officer license..
            Wondering if Marines still stand OOD watches?

          • Masau80

            I never saw a Marine stand any bridge watch in my 30 years. The SWOs needed just about all of them to get qualified. A few ship’s company aviators managed to stand a few on the CVN- but that is the exception.

          • Curtis Conway

            Bush ’41 stood watches on the submarine after his rescue. This is NOT the only example in HiStory, particularly US Military HiStory, although it is becoming much more true today, because of the lack of command authority/maturity. Take care of your troops and they will take care of the tasking. If anyone dies, it is supposed to be the enemy.

          • This_isnotreal

            I’m not sure about the marines as I have no experience with them, whereas, I’ve stood bridge watches with NFOs. In reality I don’t know where standing an OOD watch for a marine would benefit their professional development because they don’t ever ascend to command of a ship. NFOs on the other hand don’t know if their career path will lead them to a command at sea position. One of the qualifications for command at sea if being qualified OOD.

          • Funkenstein✓Funkᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ™

            I cu!

        • Masau80

          “re “every 4-star has commanded across all warfare areas” Not true.” EVERY 4-star operational command, by design and warfighting necessity, has subordinate type commands from every warfare area. The 4-star commands them all.

    • KM

      FYI, if you read Harris’s biography, you will see that he not only served on board a ship, but that he was also qual’d as the TAO.

  • ntenghtim

    Whether or not ADM Swift was the right guy for the job, the “black shoe coup” continues. Senior naval aviation leadership has gradually been attrited in a deliberate fashion by the last two CNOs. In the face of a readiness crisis of epic proportions this is not a healthy trend. Sure wish somebody would take notice on the Hill.

    From an entirely parochial service perspective – it looks as if we are about to fight a major war in the Pacific. For the Navy to practically give up PACOM to the USAF at this time is about as pathetic as it gets. What is increasingly clear is that Navy has no vision, no leadership and a dimming future – the service is in full retreat and is about to abstain from command in the operational theater most dominated by oceans. I guess this is why the Naval War College is more interested in teaching peace. For shame.

    • This_isnotreal

      So true and scary. This is NOT the time for a shake up. To be honest, I’m a little baffled by some of the careers that were ended. Every public comment has been tied to budget shortfalls due to sequestration. Shouldn’t Congress be on the chopping block?

  • docdave88

    Good.

    It is truly frightening that we are spending billions of dollars on equipment designed to stop a telephone pole incoming at Mach 2+ but the operators are so poorly trained that they cannot get out of the way of a ship the size of an office building traveling at 15 miles per hour.

    This is incompetence of epic, dare I say it, biblical proportions. Those in charge had to be replaced.

    Maybe, with General Mattis as the Secretary of Defense, we can actually get war fighters and trigger pullers back in charge of, well, fighting wars and pulling triggers.

    At this point I just hope the navy of, oh, say, Belize doesn’t decide to attack. I’m sorely afraid our Navy would lose.

    • This_isnotreal

      It is easy to deem a collision at sea as incompetence, but keep in mind that there are rules of the road at sea and that ships are not nearly as maneuverable as other forms of transportation. In fact below a certain speed the rudder has no affect and it takes time for a change in speed order to actually translate to an actual change in speed. Until the investigation is over we don’t really know if the rules of the road were observed, or anything else that should be factored in except that ships bumped into each other. Unfortunately, in maritime tradition, the commander of a vessel is ultimately responsible for everything that happens on said vessel, so logically the CO would be relieved. I’m baffled by 7th Fleets relief. Others are senior officers are applying for early retirement although not connecting to these incidents, but…

      • docdave88

        You are seriously defending this? Seriously?

        These ships are supposed to be able to stop a telephone pole incoming at Mach 2+. And nobody could see a frikkin’ office building coming? Sorry, my brother the 24 year navy guy (my experience was limited to three years, nine months, eleven days, seven hours and twenty-six minutes in the Air Force) agrees. This is a training issue and inexcusable.

        • Glad Yu Azzked

          800# gorilla in the room is that it might have been due to hacking of navcom systems.

          • docdave88

            In which case we lose the next war.

          • Glad Yu Azzked

            Possibly, but if the Navy is smart enough to defend against it, small threat easily fixed. That is IF they care…

        • This_isnotreal

          Not saying there are any excuses because just like you I don’t know all the details. However, if you believe as you state you do then you have an overly narrow understanding based on experience that by your own admission you don’t have.

          • docdave88

            Actually, my uniform was Air Force blue. I only did three years, nine months, eleven days, seven hours and twenty-six minutes. My brother, though, did 24 years in the Navy, starting as an E-1 high school dropout with a pregnant wife and finishing 24 years later an O-5 with a master’s degree. I asked him about this very thing and he agreed with me.

          • This_isnotreal

            I also spent 24 years in the navy and have a masters degree; however, neither of those point any relevance as to who is right or who is wrong.

  • David Oldham

    Too many Obama appointments in the upper ranks, too many peace time scapegoaters.

    • Secundius

      As I recall, the “Appointees” were Carryovers from the George W. Bush administration!/? You Know, Career Warfighters (A Political)…

  • vincedc

    Letting Swift retire is a good idea. As the information leaks out, it is obvious that he is responsible for over extending PACFLT assets in the Western Pacific. Congress may be the cause for the shortfalls that he had to deal with….but he put mission over lives in peacetime. There was a point where he should have just said no.+

    • This_isnotreal

      The entire military is over extended and under trained. It’s called sequestration. The air force was/is removing parts from aircrafts in museums to repair active aircraft. Just recently there have been marine helicopters falling out of the sky with lost lives. The military can only do so much with so little, but the threats of the world don’t stop because of congress’ failure.

      • Glad Yu Azzked

        But yet we drop over $600 billion a year. Demographics have more to play than sequestration.

  • Mark Irons

    Very sad news 🙁 Adm. Swift was my C.O. in VFA-122 @ NAS Lemoore. I wrote an article about him being promoted to Captain back in 2001 http://i1171.photobucket.com/albums/r547/mach267/Scott%20Swift%20Article_1.jpg