Cybersecurity · Information operations

Top Navy officer: No indication cyber attack played role in McCain and Fitz disasters


Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven Giordano, left, and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson took sailor questions Wednesday on Facebook Live. (Petty Officer 1st Class Martin L. Carey/Navy)

The Navy’s top officer said Wednesday there is no evidence that a cyber attack played a role in the fatal at-sea disasters involving the destroyers John S. McCain and Fitzgerald.

“To date…the inspections we’ve done shows no evidence of any kind of cyber intrusion,” Richardson said.

Richardson also said the reality of computer networks and modern information warfare means such possibilities must be given sufficient attention.

Cyber speculation has run wild since a commercial vessel struck the Fitzgerald off Japan in June, leading to the drowning of seven sailors.

Less than two months later near Singapore, the McCain suffered a collision with an oil tanker, claiming the lives of 10 more sailors.

While the Navy has highlighted the chaos and valor aboard the Fitz after the collision, it has yet to explain how a hulking commercial vessel got so close to a high-tech Navy ship in the first place.

The U.S. Naval Institute’s news service reported this week that an investigation had turned up little evidence that a cyber attack played a role in the McCain collision.

Richardson also pushed back Wednesday against the mindset that the Navy has to do more with less in this day and age.

“We need to fight back against this idea that we can continue to do more of our mission with fewer resources,” he said.

How the Navy can fix this current dynamic remains murky. It operates with a smaller fleet manned by fewer sailors than in the past.

During the event, Giordano read a question from a mother whose son is about to enlist.

She said she is trusting her son’s life to his commanders and the Navy.

“It’s one thing to lose a son in battle,” Giordano said, reading her letter. “It’s another completely to lose them in peacetime.”

The Navy’s top enlisted sailor said the Navy drills and educates constantly “for the known and the unknown.”

“We do that so that our sailors out there know how to respond without even thinking about it,” he said. “We work hard everyday to make sure they are effectively trained, educated and conducting business out in safe environments.”

Richardson echoed those sentiments and noted that he has a son in the service.

He said they received more than 200 questions for the Facebook session and would answer the unaddressed queries by email.

“We’re going through tough times right now,” Richardson conceded. “We’re going to get through that.”

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