Retired Vice Adm. Richard Brown in 2019. Photo via @NavyTimes Facebook

The Navy has issued a letter of censure to the former commander of its U.S. Pacific Fleet, alleging leadership failures stemming from the fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard in San Diego, it was announced Friday.

Along with the letter to retired Vice Adm. Richard Brown, who was commander of Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet at the time of the July 12, 2020, fire, the Navy says it has issued 27 “individual disposition decisions” regarding fire prevention, readiness and response efforts aboard the ship.

The letter of censure from Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro states, “Commanders are responsible for the proper execution of duties and performance of their subordinates. You failed to identify and mitigate against the lack of oversight that contributed to the loss of the ship. Accordingly, you are hereby censured for failing to effectively ensure appropriate levels of training and readiness in units under your command.”

In a separate statement sent to the Department of the Navy last month, Del Toro said, “When leaders’ actions or inactions result in the loss of life or capital resources, the senior leadership of the Department of the Navy has a responsibility to determine the root cause and hold those accountable. This fire could have been prevented with adequate oversight into the ship’s material condition and the crew’s readiness to combat a fire.”

Regarding the censure, Brown told USNI News, “I am extremely disappointed that the Navy, to which I dedicated and devoted 35 years of service, has abandoned me for political expediency. Every officer, commander and leader should now be on notice.”

Aside from Brown, the Navy said its disposition decisions include punitive letters of reprimand and forfeitures of pay for other officers, as well as a range of other punishments handed down in connection with the blaze.

Those punishments do not include the ongoing criminal proceedings against Ryan Sawyer Mays, the sailor charged with arson for allegedly intentionally setting fire to the warship.

Navy prosecutors have alleged that Mays was disgruntled with the Navy after dropping out of the SEAL training program and had been seen entering the ship’s “Lower V” area — where investigators say the fire originated — just prior to the blaze breaking out.

Mays is scheduled for a court martial later this year.

City News Service contributed to this article.



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Ellen Bullock