Today, a large-scale multi-national exercise called Ulchi Freedom Guardian gets underway in South Korea. Today, the Chief of Naval Operations announced that the US Navy would be engaging in an ‘operational pause.’
The U.S. Navy announced an “operational pause” and has begun a broad investigation after the destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant vessel, leaving 10 sailors still missing, the second such incident in as many months.
The response by the U.S. military signals the Navy believes it needs to examine whether there may be institutional problems behind the deadly collisions.
Navy Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, made the announcement about the operational pause during a nearly four-minute video message posted on Facebook Monday morning. Adm. Richardson said he also ordered a broader investigation.
“I directed an operational pause be taken in all of our fleets around the world,” Adm. Richardson said. “I want our fleet commanders to get together with their leaders and their commands to ensure that we are taking all appropriate immediate actions to ensure safe and effective operations around the world.”
Such a pause applies to operations and patrols of the Navy’s six fleets. Specifics of the pause are at the discretion of fleet commanders, officials said.
Adm. Richardson also said there would be a comprehensive investigation would look at operational tempo, personnel, maintenance, equipment and training, suggesting a confluence of factors was behind the collisions.
The nation and its allies don’t want to hear, at this particular time, that the US Navy has a questionable ability to navigate the world’s major commercial choke points without misfortune.
Richardson made a tough call. The demands on the US Navy are extremely high in both CENTCOM and PACOM areas of operation. The Iranians and the North Koreans are spoiling for an adventure at our expense. But the fact is that the collision of the USS McCain and the USS Fitzgerald, both out of the Pacific Fleet, both out of DESRON 15, calls into question exactly what is happening in that destroyer squadron and fleet. Having two major at-sea collisions in only a little over two months says there is something systemically amiss either in training or in leadership.
This is what a legacy of neglect looks like.