U.S. Navy Missile-Defense Tech Accused of Espionage

USS Higgins, Pedicini's last command assignment (USN file image)

Published Feb 21, 2024 9:12 PM by The Maritime Executive

A chief petty officer assigned to a Japan-based destroyer has been accused of passing secret information to a "foreign contact," according to charging documents first obtained by USNI News. 

Chief Fire Controlman (Aegis) Bryce Steven Pedicini has been charged with seven counts of espionage related to the mishandling or disclosure of classified information, one count of attempted espionage, and a variety of lesser charges.

As his rating indicates, Pedicini is part of the Aegis community within the fire controlman rating. The Aegis system is the Navy's integrated radar and weapons control platform, and its most advanced versions are capable of intercepting ballistic missiles in-flight. In his LinkedIn biography, Pedicini described himself as a ballistic missile computer technician. 

During most of the period in question, November 2022 through March 2023, Pedicini was assigned to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMAC) in Norfolk, Virginia, according to The Virginian-Pilot. 

MARMAC performs repairs for vessels at the Navy's largest base, and it has a troubled history. After a string of suicides at MARMAC in late 2022 - the same time period as Pedicini's assignment - a counselor assigned to help told media that she was "inundated with the amount of hopelessness at that command."

While at MARMAC, in August 2022, Pedicini achieved a raise in grade to chief petty officer. Shortly afterwards, he allegedly passed classified documents to an "employee and national of a foreign government" on seven different occasions. The contents were not disclosed, but the charging documents suggest that the information would "be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation." 

In April 2023, Pedicini left Hampton Roads and transferred to Yokosuka, Japan. The port is the home of 7th Fleet and the homeport of destroyer USS Higgins, his new command assignment. On May 7, 2023, while in Yokosuka, Pedicini allegedly entered a secure information room aboard a Navy barge with a personal electronic device. At some point shortly after, he allegedly tried to transfer photographs of a high-security computer screen to a foreign government employee. 

Pedicini was put in pre-trial detention several days later, and he was formally charged in January. 

It is the Navy's third recent spying case involving enlisted personnel, and potentially its most serious, given the nature of Pedicini's knowledge and access. The two previous cases also involved technicians.

Petty Officer Wenheng "Thomas" Zhao, 26, has admitted that he passed military secrets to a Chinese intelligence officer, including "electrical diagrams and blueprints for a Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar system located in Okinawa."

Another Chinese-born U.S. Navy sailor from California, Jinchao Wei, faces separate charges in connection with a similar alleged plot to pass information to a Chinese intelligence officer. Wei allegedly sent a Chinese intelligence officer photos and videos of the amphib USS Essex, along with manuals for the ship's weapons control systems, propulsion, steering system, elevators and casualty control systems. Wei has pleaded not guilty.