Home » Military Personnel » SECNAV Recommends Former SWO Boss Rowden to Retire at Lower Rank

SECNAV Recommends Former SWO Boss Rowden to Retire at Lower Rank

Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, Commander of Naval Surface Forces. US Navy photo.

This story will be updated as new information becomes available.

The Secretary of the Navy has decided the former head of U.S. surface forces will retire as a two-star rear admiral not a three-star vice admiral, according to two sources familiar with the decision.

Vice Adm. Tom Rowden was recommended to be retired as a rear admiral by Richard V. Spencer last week, and the final determination for Rowden’s rank is now before Secretary of Defense James Mattis, one source told USNI News.

Rowden’s retirement determination is considered a punitive measure for his role in the conditions in the surface force that contributed to the fatal collisions of USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) that resulted in the deaths of 17 sailors last year.

A representative for Rowden did not immediately respond to comment. Navy spokesman Cmdr. Bill Speaks said the service would not comment on personnel recommendations before they were final.

Adm. James F. Caldwell, the officer in charge of disciplinary actions related to the collisions, recommended that Rowden be retired early from his position as the as commander of U.S. Surface Forces (SURFOR) and U.S. Surface Force Pacific (SURFPAC) in January.

Caldwell reported his findings to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and other Navy leaders that included unspecified disciplinary actions for Rowden that resulted in the early turnover, several sources confirmed to USNI News at the time.

In addition to Rowden, former U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Scott Swift and former U.S. 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin retired early as part of the fallout from the collisions.

  • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

    Bummer dude, guess he got the Husband E. Kimmel treatment?

    • Duane

      You are presuming that Rowden is innocent of any malfeasance in his duties, as Kimmel supporters incl. Adm Nimitz have argued for decades. Others argue to the contrary.

      However, there is a huge difference between Kimmel and Rowden: Kimmel was scapegoated by the President himself (FDR), and his hand-picked so-called “Roberts Commission”, as a means of escaping personal political blame for the surprise Japanese attack … it was not a Naval scapegoating. Later on when Republicans won control of Congress, their own committee investigation put the blame on FDR. And finally, in 2000 a bipartisan Senate majority absolved both Kimmel and Short and requested POTUS to restore their former ranks … but all four Presidents since then have declined to take action.

      With Rowden, the politicians have not gotten involved and turned the collisions into a political football, as happened with Kimmel.

      • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

        Sorry, I was not making a absolute direct comparison to him. Merely that he was destine to fall on his sword.

  • Richard Johnson

    Wonder if the same thing will happen to ADM Swift and VADM Aucoin.

  • Richard Johnson


    I would stop using SWOBOSS in your articles. The BOSS thing is an Aviator requirement.

    On small ships like DDG’s we refer to the senior LCDR helicopter pilot in charge of his detachment as the “Air Boss”, but he is actually a Department Head with the three or four already on the ship.

    • It’s the Navy’s term they’ve pushed for the last couple of years now.
      We reserve the use for headlines but leave it out of copy.

      • wilkinak

        Definitely in keeping with the stupid trends in the Navy that led to this situation.

  • tim

    … while I belive this goes all the way to the top as long as there is proof of having received the proper information, I want to read what conditions were reported, what feedback was given. Was the president briefed and nothing was done? Where did it end? Can the preident assume that running the armed forces on a shoestring budget will go unnoticed?

  • proudrino

    Can we retroactively go out after the flags that instituted SWOS-in-a-Box? In all honesty Rowden inherited a surface fleet that was poorly trained and maintained. While he is culpable, the real guilt belongs to those who made poor decisions years ago. But, of course USNI won’t follow that story because too many of the really guilty are esteemed contributors to Proceedings. I’d love just one of the geniuses who killed the surface fleet to write an article defending their actions.

  • The_Usual_Suspect61

    There needs to be a claw back going all the way back to at least Roughead.

    • wilkinak

      I’d be happy if they quit putting Roughead on commissions & task forces studying what went wrong.

      • The_Usual_Suspect61

        He is one of the roots of the problem.

  • jjm

    This accountability is appropriate, but it is unfortunate that the politicians who underfunded the military cannot also be held accountable, This goes back to when Gates made a deal with Obama on funding cuts and the WH staff talked Obama into reneging on it — implementing Gates’ cuts and much more.

    While technology is great, one must understand the underlying skill. Sailors must know when “it doesn’t feel right.”

    This is not slamming liberals or Democrats, many of whom have supported a strong military; some having actually served.. It is intended for those who dole out platitudes, divert defense spending,to unearned entitlements, and use the military as a social experiment.

    • proudrino

      If you want to go out after politicians, then Ray Mabus should be at the top of the list. He sat there and allowed sequestration cuts under the military-hating Obama administration. He didn’t say a thing when senior military leaders expressed concerns. If not an outright traitor he was the most insidious SECNAV in the last century. But Mabus fulfilled his mission for Obama. Gays openly serving. Women on submarines and in combat. Ships named after people like Jim Murtha, Gabby Giffords, John Lewis and other anti-military liberals. The LCS program providing jobs to political supporters…… Eight years in office and not really concerned about maintenance and manning of the surface fleet. Not even once.

  • Jon

    A very surprising step in the right direction.

  • DC35

    2017 was a sad year for the US Navy.
    17 sailors lost in two collisions while doing ‘routine’ operations.
    I am satisfied to see that the process of investigating, accountability and follow up has been publicized.
    Sailors, their families and the nation must know what the Navy is doing to ensure the safe operstion and readiness of the fleet.
    Shipmates MUST be willing to trust that those on watch and everyone up the entire chain of command are doing their jobs properly in order to eat, sleep, maintain and train in order to be prepared to assume their own watch.

    While an (uncharged) 18 year old was at the helm of the USS John S. McCain at the time of its collision the punishments went UP the chain of command to include at least three admirals.
    Senior enlisted personnel, ships’ officers, captains and admirals were each responsible for a portion of the chain of events that ultimately led to the collisions.

    Nothing can bring back those lost or will immediately reassure my confidence in the Navy.
    That trust must be re-earned through public displays of improvement actions everyday going forward.

    God bless our ships and all who sail in them.