The strange saga of Capt. Brett Crozier, former commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, continues.
In yet another military about-face, sources are now saying the US Navy has recommended reinstating Crozier after he was fired by the Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, for allegedly jumping the chain of command in an attempt to save his crew from a coronavirus outbreak, Jeff Schogol of Task & Purpose reported.
The letter, which became public, not only cost him his job but led the acting Navy secretary to resign in disgrace shortly afterwards.
The New York Times first reported on Friday that Defense Secretary Mark Esper has been briefed on the Navy’s recommendation but wants more time to think it over.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman confirmed that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday had presented Esper with a “verbal update” on the investigation into the coronavirus outbreak aboard the Theodore Roosevelt, the report said.
“After the secretary receives a written copy of the completed inquiry, he intends to thoroughly review the report and will meet again with Navy leadership to discuss next steps,” Hoffman said in a statement. “He remains focused on and committed to restoring the full health of the crew and getting the ship at sea again soon.”
The Navy also issued a statement on Friday saying “no final decisions have been made” about the Theodore Roosevelt investigation, the report said.
According to a senior defense official, the Navy’s investigation examined multiple commands amid a complex timeline of communications.
“Many in the media are focused on one aspect of the initial inquiry,” the official said of Crozier on condition of anonymity, since they were not authorized to speak about an ongoing sensitive inquiry. “It is in fact about far more than one person.”
Crozier was relieved of command on April 2, shortly after the San Francisco Chronicle published a leaked copy of a memo he sent to his superiors warning that sailors aboard the Theodore Roosevelt would die unless the majority of crew members were placed in individual quarantine, the report said.
Sailors on board the ship gave Crozier a rousing send-off, as he left the ship as a heroic figure, raising concerns among Pentagon higher-ups, who would eventually throw Modly under the bus.
When Modly fired Crozier, he also claimed the former captain had sent an email with sensitive information to far too many people.
“It was copied to 20 or 30 other people, OK?” Modley told reporters during a Pentagon news briefing. “That’s just not acceptable.”
But Washington Post reporters Dan Lamothe and Shawn Boburg later revealed that Crozier’s email was sent to fewer individuals than Modly stated.
From the screenshots of the email published in the Post, it does not appear that Crozier went outside of his chain of command to ask for help, the report said.
“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset – our sailors,” he wrote in the letter.
Moldy’s career came to an abrupt end after he flew thousands of miles to visit the Theodore Roosevelt in Guam, only to lambast Crozier and the ship’s crew in a bizarre, career-ending profane diatribe.
“If [Crozier] didn’t think, in my opinion, that this information wasn’t going to get out into the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either A, too naive, or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this,” Modly told the Theodore Roosevelt’s crew on April 5.
Modly resigned on April 7 after leaked audio of his comments to the Theodore Roosevelt crew was published by Task & Purpose. He was replaced by James McPherson, who was serving as undersecretary of the Army at the time, the report said.
To make matters worse, it was widely reported that Modly traveled to Guam aboard a military Gulfstream VIP jet.
It costs US$6,946.19 per hour to fly and the flight time for the Guam trip was about 35 hours for a total cost of US$243,151.65. The cost of the trip was first reported by USA Today.
As of Thursday, 840 sailors from the Theodore Roosevelt had tested positive for the coronavirus, while one person has died, Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr.
According to USNI, Democrat leaders in the House Armed Services Committee released statements in support of the Navy’s decision.
“The Secretary of Defense needs to reinstate Captain Brett Crozier as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. While Captain Crozier’s actions at the outset of the health crisis aboard the TR were drastic and imperfect, it is clear he only took such steps to protect his crew,” said HASC chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) in a statement.
“Not only did Crozier have the full support of his crew, he also attempted to work within his chain of command. During this time of crisis, Crozier is exactly what our sailors need: a leader who inspires confidence.”
Rep Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), chair of the HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee, said, “It is clear that Capt. Crozier should never have been removed from his command in the first place, and the Navy’s recommendation to reinstate him is the right call. It will be a tremendous boost to morale, and I believe it will restore the faith of the American people in its Navy.”
(Editor’s update: Navy Capt. Brett Crozier’s reinstatement as the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s commanding officer has been delayed now that Acting Navy James E. McPherson has ordered a whole new investigation into the novel coronavirus outbreak aboard the ship. McPherson announced that he still has “unanswered questions” after reviewing the Navy’s preliminary inquiry.)