The Navy has decided to uphold the firing of Capt. Brett Crozier, the former commander of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, after a panicked memo he wrote about a coronavirus outbreak on his ship leaked to his hometown paper.
“I will not reassign Capt. Brett Crozier as the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, nor will he be eligible for future command,” said Navy Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday. “Captain Crozier will be reassigned.”
The Navy will also put on hold the promotion of Crozier’s then-boss, Rear Adm. Stuart Baker, commander of the carrier strike group who was also on the ship with Crozier.
“It is my belief that both Adm. Baker and Capt. Crozier fell well short of what we expect of those in command,” Gilday added.
The decision upholds Crozier’s firing by then-Navy Secretary Thomas Modly. Crozier had written a panicked memo to a group of naval officers, some not in his chain of command, warning that dozens of sailors could die if they could not be moved off the ship faster in Guam.
The Navy had already begun moving the sailors off, but Crozier worried it was not fast enough. Ultimately, one sailor died from coronavirus.
Modly said it was not Crozier’s warning, but the way he issued the warning — via unsecured communications to a large number of people that ensured it leak to the captain’s hometown paper — that warranted his firing.
After videos emerged of the ship’s crew cheering Crozier as he walked off the ship, Modly flew to Guam to explain his decision to the crew. After Modly’s address leaked to media, showing that he had insulted Crozier, Democrats called for Modly’s resignation.
Modly ultimately resigned over the controversy, which he said had become a distraction to the Navy and getting the crew back underway.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-CA), who opposed the firing of Crozier and had called for Modly’s resignation, said his committee has launched their own investigation.
“In order to better understand the full range of mistakes that were made throughout the entire chain of command, the House Armed Services Committee has launched an investigation into the COVID-19 outbreak aboard the Roosevelt,” he said.
“While the committee works on our own investigation, it is my hope that the Navy will learn from this series of mistakes. Modly’s incredibly poor decision to relieve Captain Crozier because of an email was only made worse by his equally poor decision to visit the ship and berate the commander after he left. Modly’s bad decision-making underscores the importance of sound civilian leadership at the Department,” he added.
Chief Pentagon Spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Defense Secretary Mark Esper supported the Navy’s decision.
“The Secretary of the Navy briefed Secretary Esper earlier today on the findings of the investigation into the USS Theodore Roosevelt COVID response. Secretary Esper believes the investigation to have been thorough and fair and supports the Navy’s decisions based on their findings. We are proud of the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt and am glad that they are back at sea in the western Pacific projecting American power,” he said.