Former skipper of ship hit by terrorist attack in 2000 is removed from promotion list

Published 7:20 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Nearly six years after the deadly terrorist attack on the USS Cole, the Navy has decided that the officer who was skipper of the ship is not qualified for a promotion that had been in limbo since 2002.

The attack killed 17 sailors and nearly sank the destroyer in Aden harbor, Yemen. A Navy investigation concluded in 2001 that Cmdr. Kirk Lippold and his crew probably could not have prevented the attack and should not be punished. The Cole underwent $250 million of repairs at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in Pascagoula.

In a written statement Monday, the Navy said Secretary Donald C. Winter concluded after reviewing the matter that Lippold’s actions before the attack on Oct. 12, 2000, “did not meet the high standard” expected of commanding officers.

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Based on that assessment, Winter determined that Lippold was “not the best and fully qualified for promotion to the higher grade” of captain, said a Navy spokesman, Cmdr. David Werner.

A Navy promotion board had selected Lippold for promotion to captain in 2002 but he was not confirmed by the Senate, and his status had been in limbo since then. Winter decided to strike Lippold’s name from the promotion list, meaning he will remain at his current rank of commander. If he chooses to stay in the Navy he will become eligible to be considered again for promotion early next year, Navy officials said.

Lippold currently is serving on the staff of the top Navy officer, Adm. Mike Mullen, at the Pentagon. The Navy said Lippold was withholding comment on Winter’s decision until he and his Navy lawyer review it fully.

The top Navy officer when the Cole attack occurred, Adm. Vern Clark, said after the Navy’s investigation was concluded, “There is a collective responsibility. We all in the chain of command share responsibility for what happened on board USS Cole.”

“The investigation clearly shows the commanding officer of the Cole did not have the specific intelligence, the focused training, the appropriate equipment and on-scene security support to effectively prevent or deter such a determined, such a pre-planned assault on this ship,” Clark said on Jan. 19, 2001.

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