Navy Says It Has Fired Commander of Cruiser USS Lake Erie over Performance Issues

U.S. Navy Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie
U.S. Navy Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie steams in a multinational formation off the coast of Hawaii during the Rim of the Pacific exercise, Aug. 8, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jenna Dobson)

The Navy has fired the commanding officer of the USS Lake Erie, a guided missile cruiser based in San Diego, the service announced in a statement late Thursday night.

Capt. Danielle DeFant was relieved as commander of the Lake Erie by Rear Adm. Christopher Alexander, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 9, on Thursday "due to a loss of confidence in her ability to command," the statement said.

DeFant has become at least the ninth Navy commander to be removed from command this year.

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Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson, a spokesman for the Naval Surface Force, told in an email Friday that DeFant's relief "was related to the performance of her duties as the commanding officer."

When asked whether DeFant was under investigation, Abrahamson said that "the decision to relieve any commanding officer comes after a thorough review from leadership in the officer's chain of command."

Abrahamson also confirmed that neither the ship's executive officer nor its top enlisted sailor was relieved alongside DeFant.

The service's statement offered only the usual remark that the service expects its commanders "to uphold the highest standards of responsibility, reliability and leadership, and the Navy holds them accountable when they fall short of those standards."

The Navy said that Capt. Brandon Burkett will assume the duties as commanding officer of the ship until permanent relief arrives, and Abrahamson said that the ousting will not affect Lake Erie's mission.

The Lake Erie emerged from the shipyards in December 2022 after nearly two years of overhaul and upgrades to the 30-year-old ship. According to the ship's Facebook page, the crew has been working to get the Lake Erie mission ready since that time. In September, the ship reported landing a helicopter on its flight deck for the first time in three years.

The Navy currently plans to decommission the Lake Erie in 2025.

DeFant's official Navy biography says that she began her career in the service in 1991 as an enlisted sailor before commissioning in 1999. Since then, she served on destroyers, cruisers and a frigate before being selected as the executive officer of the destroyer USS Paul Hamilton in 2014. She later took over as commander of the Paul Hamilton and served in that role from March 2016 to December 2017.

According to the Navy's statement, DeFant will now be reassigned to the office of the commander for the Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at Follow him on X at @ktoropin.

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