The U.S. Navy removed the commander of the fleet that has suffered four recent collisions in Asia and the deaths of several sailors, the Pacific Fleet said in a statement.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the Navy was planning to remove Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin —the three-star commander of U.S. Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan—though officials had declined to comment.
In a short statement Wednesday, the Navy said Adm. Scott Swift, the commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, had relieved him “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command.”
Vice Adm. Aucoin was expected to retire in coming weeks, but under the Navy’s tradition of public accountability, commanders or ship captains are dismissed as soon as their superiors lose confidence in their leadership.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
Analysis: While this was expected, it may seem rather extreme to some, given Aucoin’s upcoming retirement, especially since Navy brass and U.S. intelligence suspects there could be foul play involved in at least some of the recent incidents involving 7th Fleet warships.
One theory is that a nation-state actor — some are mentioning China — may have hacked into navigational systems, though that’s not been publicly confirmed. Either way, there are issues within the 7th Fleet that need to be addressed, and ultimately the responsibility rests with the commander. As The WSJ noted further, “His removal doesn’t represent a specific finding of fault against Vice Adm. Aucoin. Navy officials are investigating the role that training, manning and other internal fleet processes may have played in the collisions.”