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. 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.
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.