Last month, ten US soldiers were killed when the USS John S. McCain crashed into Liberian-flagged chemical tanker Alnic MC tanker east of Singapore. And in June, the USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine cargo ship off the coast of Japan, killing 7 soldiers. The three-star admiral in charge of the 7th Fleet, Vice. Adm. Joseph Aucoin, was relieved in September following the McCain collision.
According to the Navy's statement, Task Force 70 commander Rear Adm. Charles Williams and Destroyer Squadron 15 commander Capt. Jeffrey Bennett were both relieved of command by 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer "due to a loss of confidence in their ability to command."
Williams, who was both the commander of Task Force 70 and Carrier Strike Group 5, had tactical control of the 7th fleet's cruisers and destroyers, Carrier Air Wing 5 and aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. Bennett was the DESRON 15 commander in charge of all destroyers assigned to 7th Fleet.
According to the Navy's statement, Adm. Marc Dalton and Capt. Jonathan Duffy will assume duties as commanders of Task Force 76 and DESRON 15, respectively.
In addition to the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions, the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain crashed into a South Korean fishing boat near the Korean peninsula in May. Another guided-missile cruiser, the USS Antietam, ran aground, spilling about 1,100 gallons of hydraulic fluid into Tokyo Bay.
On Tuesday, Secretary of Navy Richard Spencer and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the recent string of incidents involving Navy ships in the Pacific.
The director of Defense Force Structure and Readiness Issues at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), John Pendleton, will also join the Navy top officials on Tuesday. The GAO recently released a report concerning the Navy's readiness issues.
"GAO's prior work shows that the Navy has increased deployment lengths, shortened training periods, and reduced or deferred maintenance to meet high operational demands, which has resulted in declining ship conditions and a worsening trend in overall readiness," according to the report.
"The Navy has stated that high demand for presence has put pressure on a fleet that is stretched thin across the globe."