The Navy's top officer is ordering a comprehensive review of recent accidents in the Pacific, following the latest collision at sea between the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker, which left 10 crewmembers missing and five injured.
In a video message released Monday morning, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson called for an "operational pause" in order to take "a deeper look into how we train and certify forces operating in and around Japan."
"As you know, this is the second collision in three months and last in a series of incidents in the Pacific theater," he said. "This trend demands more forceful action."
The latest accident followed a June 17 collision between another destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald and a commercial container ship, which killed seven U.S. sailors.
Both ships were in assigned to the U.S. 7th Fleet, based in Yokosuka, Japan.
"This review will be on a tight timeline. We need to get to the bottom of these problems and quickly make corrective actions," a statement from Richardson's office said.
The CNO's review was described by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as a broader look that will go beyond what happened in the latest incident.
"He has put together a broader inquiry to look into these incidents and to determine any of the causal factors to determine what is going on, both immediate contributors to this incident, but also any related factors," Mattis said speaking to reporters in Jordan.
The Navy said an investigative team will include both officers and enlisted personnel, as well outside experts from the private sector.
"The review will include, but not be limited to trends in operational tempo, performance, maintenance, equipment, and personnel," Richardson's office said. "It will also focus on surface warfare training and career development, including tactical and navigational proficiency."
Monday's accident was the fourth this year for ships in the U.S. Navy's 7th fleet. In January the cruiser USS Antietam ran aground off the coast of Japan, and in May the cruiser USS Lake Champlain was hit by a South Korean fishing boat.
"We need to get to the bottom of this," Richardson said in his video. "So let's get to it."
The Navy will look at all possible causes for the unusual coincidence of two U.S. guided-missile destroyers being rammed in the same manner by commercial merchant ships two months apart, including the possibility that either of the acts were the result intentional hostile acts or sabotage, Richardson told reporters later Monday.
"That is something that we are giving full consideration to," said Richardson. "But we have no indication that that's the case, yet, but we are looking at every possibility. We are not leaving anything to chance."
Richardson noted that for two ships from the same fleet to be involved in similar at-sea collisions in the same part of the world is highly unusual.
"That gives great cause for concern that there is something out there that we are not getting at," Richardson said.
Asked if "cyber-sabotage" was a possibility, Richardson said, "the whole thing, right. We're taking a look at all of that."
After a brief news conference at the Pentagon Richardson sent a tweet, "2 clarify Re: possibility of cyber intrusion or sabotage, no indications right now...but review will consider all possibilities."
The Navy has ordered an "operational pause" of a day or two for all ships to review all standard procedures, along with a broader investigation to look for shortfalls in training, equipment, or procedures.
The review will be Navy-wide, but with a particular focus on what's happening at the U.S. Navy 7th fleet, where both ships were based.