The United States Navy has a problem in the Pacific.  As America’s military force in a region that has seen near historic levels of tension recently, including a newly-nuclear North Korea as well as a rapidly expanding Chinese military in the South China Sea, the challenges facing our seaward troops are formidable enough.  Unfortunately, those international tensions aren’t the only obstacles our Navy has been facing. The recent rash of tragic collisions between U.S. Navy ships and commercial vessels has not only given America’s military reputation a black eye, it’s raised some serious questions about how effective the Pacific Fleet might be if war were to break out.

Over the past few months, 17 sailors have lost their lives in embarrassing and avoidable collisions with large commercial vessels in open water.  Two more collisions earlier in the year, one with a fishing boat and another running aground, as well as the crash of a Marine Corps Osprey as it approached the USS Green Bay in early August, compound with stories about international search and rescue efforts for a sailor believed to be overboard (but was actually hiding in the engine room of his ship) and a crashed F/A-18 Hornet that went down as it attempted to make a carrier landing a few months prior, and it’s starting to look like our Navy doesn’t know what it’s doing, despite being the largest, most powerful Naval fleet in the history of mankind.

Damage to the portside is visible as the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) after its collision with a commercial oil tanker on August 21st

There is no easy solution to what appears to by a systemic problem (or series of problems), but that doesn’t mean there are no solutions; and no matter how complex the issues may be, the Pacific Fleet Commander, Adm. Scott H. Swift makes no excuses for the performance of the ships under his charge, and has resolved to find those elusive solutions as quickly as possible.

This transcends a professional responsibility. I feel a personal responsibility, a personal commitment to get after the challenges we face in the Pacific,” said Swift in a recent interview.  “To be clear, I’m the one that is responsible. I’m the one who has the authorities to fix this. I’m the one to be held accountable for these events and I don’t shirk these responsibilities whatsoever.”