US Navy investigating Japan-based sailors for drug use, sales

A number of U.S. Navy sailors based in Japan are being investigated for alleged use and distribution of drugs, a spokesman for the U.S. Seventh Fleet confirmed to CNN.

News of the investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Friday. The paper said the drugs involved included LSD and ecstasy, among others, and that at least a dozen U.S. Navy personnel were under suspicion.

The Journal report said some of those being investigated were serving aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S Ronald Reagan as well as on shore in Japan. Suspicions that drugs had been sold to local Japanese residents means that Japanese authorities are also investigating, the Journal said.

Cmdr. Clay Doss, public affairs officer for the Seventh Fleet, confirmed the investigation was under way.

“The Navy has zero tolerance for drug abuse and takes all allegations involving misconduct of our sailors, Navy civilians and family members very seriously,” Doss said in an email to CNN. “These allegations are still under investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

The Reagan, based in Yokosuka near Tokyo, is the only one of the U.S. Navy’s 11 aircraft carriers homeported outside of the United States. It’s arguably the Navy’s most important asset in the Pacific amidst ongoing challenges from North Korea and elsewhere.

If the drug allegations prove true, it would be the latest in a string of bruising black eyes for the Seventh Fleet, which has seen two of its guided-missile destroyers involved in deadly collisions with cargo vessels in the past year, reports of exhausted crews plagued by poor morale, and dozens of its former officers entangled in a Pacific-wide corruption scandal.

Word of the drug investigation also comes as the Defense Department announced that President Donald Trump has nominated Vice Adm. John Aquilino as commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii. The Seventh Fleet is a subordinate command of the Pacific Fleet.

Aquilino, currently head of U.S. Naval Forces, Central Command, will replace Adm. Scott Swift, who has led the Pacific Fleet since May 2015.