Frequent extended deployments, delayed maintenance, gaps in training and almost a decade of budget constraints and uncertainly have strained the U.S. Navy, eroding readiness in a Pacific fleet that is responsible for monitoring Chinese aggression and protecting America against North Korea's nuclear threat, Navy leaders and members of Congress said Tuesday.
US 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer - who replaced Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin after he was removed from his position for poor leadership - relieved Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of Combined Task Force 70 and Capt. Jeffery Bennett, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 15, according to USNI News. In June, the USS Fitzgerald, another destroyer, collided with a cargo vessel off Japan, an accident claiming seven sailors.
"Both reliefs were due to a loss of confidence in their ability to command", the Navy statement said.
Williams was the commander of Task Force 70, which includes the aircraft carriers, destroyers and cruisers in the 7th Fleet, and Bennett was commander of the destroyer squadron.
The two fatal accidents follow a year of incidents involving Japan-based surface warfare vessels.
Bennett was relieved of his post as commander of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, responsible for the Navy's forward-deployed destroyer squadron and commanding the readiness of eight guided-missile destroyers as well as destroyers deployed to the Seventh Fleet area. "Capt. Jonathan Duffy, deputy commander, DESRON 15, assumed duties as commander", the Navy said.More news: South Carolina's Deebo Samuel out indefinitely after surgery on fractured leg
Monday's developments are just the latest fallout in the Navy accidents.
The announcement comes less than a month after the US Navy fired the previous 7th Fleet commander, Joseph Aucoin, who was dismissed on August 23.
Navy Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said the review will be conducted with the help of the Navy's office of the inspector general, the safety center and private companies that make equipment used by sailors. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on Tuesday.
"I don't know what specifically caused the accidents", Pendleton testified at the House hearing September 7.
The high tempo in ship operations in the Pacific has forced Navy crews to squeeze in training where possible, and led to some sailors working 100-hour weeks, leaving them little time to rest, officials said.