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Navy Takes Accountability Actions after USS Bonhomme Richard Fire Investigation

15 July 2022
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Navy completed the accountability actions in support of the command investigation into the July 2020 fire aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Adm. Samuel Paparo, the Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA), made individual disposition decisions and Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro issued a Secretarial Letter of Censure (SLOC).

As CDA, Paparo made 27 individual disposition decisions, which were primarily focused on the ship’s fire prevention, readiness, and response efforts. The disposition decisions included six Nonjudicial Punishments (NJP) with guilty findings, two NJPs with Matter of Interest Filings (MIF) and a Letter of Instruction (LOI), two NJP dismissals with a warning, one additional MIF, five other LOIs, three Non-Punitive Letters of Caution (NPLOC), two letters to former Sailors documenting substandard performance, and six no-action determinations.

Paparo’s CDA accountability actions were primarily focused on USS Bonhomme Richard’s leadership and the fire response team. Paparo awarded punitive letters of reprimand and forfeitures of pay to Capt. Gregory Scott Thoroman, former commanding officer, and Capt. Michael Ray, former executive officer. Former Command Master Chief Jose Hernandez was awarded a punitive letter of reprimand.  

After a thorough and careful review, the CDA issued LOIs to Rear Adm. Scott Brown, U.S. Pacific Fleet director of fleet maintenance, and Rear Adm. Eric Ver Hage, commander, Navy Regional Maintenance Center.

Additionally, Secretary Del Toro issued a Secretarial Letter of Censure (SLOC) to Vice Adm. (ret) Richard Brown. At the time of the fire, Vice Adm. (ret) Brown was Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

“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,” Del Toro said in a message sent to the Department of the Navy on June 2. “This fire could have been prevented with adequate oversight into the ship’s material condition and the crew’s readiness to combat a fire.”

The CDA’s actions are separate and distinct from the ongoing criminal proceedings against Seaman Apprentice Ryan Mays, who is accused of arson and hazarding a vessel.

The accountability actions do not represent the entirety of corrective actions following the fire aboard USS Bonhomme Richard.

“Losing Bonhomme Richard to this fire was preventable. We are making significant changes in the way the Navy learns and leads so that this does not happen again,” said Adm. William Lescher, Vice Chief of Naval Operations.

Lescher specifically pointed to three key institutional reforms that go beyond firefighting and prevention: the Get Real, Get Better initiative is designed to scale Navy-best leadership behavior and problem-solving across the Navy; the elevation of the Naval Safety Center to the Naval Safety Command with a new mandate as the naval enterprise lead for non-nuclear safety standards, expertise, and oversight; and the VCNO and Under Secretary-led Learning to Action Board which serves to both implement key lessons learned and assess the effectiveness of corrective actions over time. 

“What we have learned from both our strongest and our weakest performance is that consistently practicing Get Real, Get Better leadership is the most powerful way to make the Navy better.  The Get Real, Get Better initiative will sharpen Navy readiness and reduce the variability in the performance between our strongest and weakest performers,” said Lescher. “It reflects our commitment to invest in people as the center of what we do. Reinforcing and rewarding critical thinking, empowering our Sailors to find and fix problems at their level, and challenging leaders to remove barriers to their teams’ performance.”

The Navy’s revised Charge of Command and the Get Real, Get Better principles, both posted on the website, include more information on these foundational initiatives.

The SLOC can be found here.


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