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Navy collisions take toll on ship captains

The U.S. Navy has relieved two more top officers because of a "loss of confidence in their ability to command" after two fatal collisions over the summer.

The destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a cargo ship in the Sea of Japan in June, killing seven sailors. And in August the USS McCain, another destroyer, collided with an oil tanker off the coast of Singapore, killing 10 sailors.

The immediate command result was the removal of Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, from command of the U.S. 7th Fleet. Now Aucoin's replacement, Vice Admiral Phil Sawyer, has relieved the commander of Task Force 70, Rear Admiral Charles William, and the commander of Destroyer Squadron15, Captain Jeffrey Bennett. The Navy press release announcing the leadership changes did not mention the collisions, but the officials relieved of their duties were in the Fitzgerald's and McCain's chains of command.

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson will testify this week before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the recent accidents.

Joining the top Navy leaders will be John Pendleton, the director of defense force structure and readiness issues at the Government Accountability Office, which issued a report highlighting the Navy's readiness problems.

In addition to the collisions involving the Fitzgerald and McCain, the USS Lake Champlain, a guided-missile cruiser, collided with a fishing boat in the Sea of Japan in May. There were no injuries.

In February the USS Antietam, also a guided-missile cruiser, ran aground off the coast of Japan, damaging its propellers and spilling oil into the water.


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