Engineering Failures, Toxic Leadership Prevented US Ship From Deploying, Investigations Show

Command investigations into the USS Boxer amphibious assault ship that has been confined to the dock in San Diego show it suffered at least three engineering breakdowns and toxic leadership.

The Boxer has been awaiting the order to join its companion vessels in the Pacific for months in spite of repeated assurances from Navy leaders that both ship and crew are ready and eager to deploy, according to, which first obtained the investigations via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Maintenance issues reportedly holding up the Boxer’s deployment go far deeper than the Navy initially let on, including inability to repair mounting engineering problems and a maintenance crew and senior leader who at worst actively attempted to cover up failures, preventing the ship’s deployment, the investigations show.

Investigations into three separate engineering failures “caused by a lack of procedural compliance, substandard supervisory oversight, and general complacency by the crew” took place between January and November 2023, the Boxer’s strike group commander said in the report released to (RELATED: Women Opt To Reenlist In The Marine Corps At Higher Rates Than Men)

In one November 2022 incident, the Boxer experienced damage to two “forced draft blowers” that a separate investigation into the incident concluded was due to “poor quality craftsmanship, lack of industry repair skill set/capabilities” and a “lack of supervisory oversight.”

A May 2023 lapse in boiler room safety “once again revealed a lack of procedural compliance and overall complacency of all personnel involved,” the strike commander’s investigation said.

The latest incident revealed in the investigations happened in July 2023, when ship’s main reduction gears that transfer power to the propellers operated without lubrication.

“All watchstanders displayed an appalling lack of procedural compliance and general complacency in this casualty,” Rear Adm. Randall Peck, the commander, wrote.

The Boxer left harbor a month later in August, but moments after leaving the harbor black smoke began to spew from the smokestacks and the ship radioed it had just experienced an “engineering casualty,” according to

The ship’s main propulsion assistant, who serves as second-in-charge to the chief engineer, displayed an appalling lack of attention to the engineering crew, the investigation said.

A senior enlisted leader, whose name was redacted, was formally counseled at least six times and a December 2022 survey revealed unprofessional and counterproductive leadership on the part of the sailor.

Peck also notes that he closed an investigation “into allegations of assault and failure to report previous incidents of assault within [the] USS Boxer engineering department” in October 2023.

USS Boxer (LHD 4) conducts flight quarters while transiting the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 6, 2023. The Boxer Amphibious Readiness Group is underway in the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of operations conducting advanced tactical training that increases warfighting capability and tactical proficiency across all domains.

USS Boxer (LHD 4) conducts flight quarters while transiting the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 6, 2023. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Evan Diaz)

The Boxer was supposed to deploy late in 2023, a defense official told, as one of its companion ships has already set sail. It underwent a two-year, $200 million overhaul that ended in 2022, after which it briefly put to sea in June 2022 before staying in port for more than a year afterword.

A spokesperson for Naval Surface Forces told in July the crew remained “focused on readiness and preparing for sea trials and the eventual deployment of the ship” but declined to detail the reason the Boxer was confined to the dock for “operational security” reasons.

Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson said at the time the ship was “maintaining certifications and qualifications, while conducting integrated training and simulated multi-day underway evolutions.”

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