The U.S. Navy’s leadership has recommended that Capt. Brett E. Crozier, the former commanding officer of the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, should be reinstated to his post.
In late March, Capt. Crozier wrote a letter to three Pacific Fleet flag officers criticizing the Navy’s handling of an outbreak of COVID-19 on board the carrier. The letter called for the disembarkation of about 4,000 out of Roosevelt’s 4,800 crewmembers and a full-scale, stem-to-stern sanitization of the ship. The memo was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle and published, prompting then-Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly to remove Crozier from his post.
Modly then chartered a business jet to visit the carrier at Guam, incurring a cost of approximately $243,000 for the flight. On arrival, he delivered a speech to the crew, and he described Crozier as either “naive or stupid” for sending a letter that could be leaked to the press. Like the letter, the speech was quickly leaked to the press, and after pressure from members of Congress, Modly resigned.
The Navy has launched an internal investigation into the command climate aboard Roosevelt and the circumstances behind Crozier’s memo. The preliminary investigation has concluded, and on Friday, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday and Acting Navy Secretary James McPherson gave a verbal recommendation to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper that Capt. Crozier should be reinstated to his post.
Esper, who was expected to agree, told Navy officials that he would like additional time to consider the matter, according to the New York Times. A congressional briefing to announce the results of the investigation had been scheduled for Friday afternoon, but it was canceled after Esper’s request for more time, congressional staffers told USNI.
“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,” Esper’s office 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.”
“[Navy] Secretary McPherson is continuing discussions with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. No final decisions have been made,” the Navy said in a statement.
Capt. Crozier is among the 850 sailors from USS Theodore Roosevelt who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and he is currently in isolation at a facility on Guam.