Generally, stability in government is desirable during a crisis, but the Trump administration seems to be entering another dramatic phase of personnel turnover.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly submitted a letter of resignation on Tuesday after his rather critical and controversial comments about the captain of coronavirus-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt were made public, according to the Daily Caller.
There was plenty of blame to go around that led to the captain being relieved of his duty and to the resignation of Modly.
The controversy began started when Capt. Brett Crozier sent a letter to his higher-ups in the Navy begging for help after over 100 sailors aboard his vessel were diagnosed with COVID-19. Unfortunately, the San Fransisco Chronicle managed to get a copy of the letter, causing a major media firestorm.
The captain’s concerns for the safety of his crew were legitimate, but he circumvented the chain of command by leaking the letter. It is unclear whether Capt. Crozier sent the letter directly to the media outlet, but it does appear that he sent it to numerous people over “non-secure unclassified email.”
Acting Secretary Modly stated at the time, “I have no doubt in my mind that Captain Crozier did what he thought was in the best interest of the safety and well-being of his crew. Unfortunately, it did the opposite. It unnecessarily raised the alarm of the families of our sailors and Marines with no plans to address those concerns.”
After Modly relieved Capt. Crozier of his post, he made a surprise speech to the sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Modly’s words generated significant outrage among the crew because of the manner in which he attacked the actions of the captain.
“If he 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 crew. “The alternative is that he did this on purpose. And that’s a serious violation of the UCMJ which you are all familiar with.”
When Crozier left the ship, his crew cheered for him, something that upset Modly even more, which led to him saying, “So think about that when you cheer the man of the ship who exposed you to that. I understand you love the guy. It’s good that you love him. But you’re not required to love him.”
Modly later apologized for his comments, stating that they were only meant for the crew and that he did not think that Crozier was either “naïve or stupid” and that he “always believed him to be the opposite of that.”
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump stated that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was looking into the incident and even hinted there is a possibility that Crozier could get his command back, although nothing has been confirmed on that front as of yet.
It is also worth noting that more than 200 sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for COVID-19, as has Captain Crozier himself. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), a former Navy SEAL, stopped short of saying that he also would have relieved Crozier of his post, but he did say that the captain started an unnecessary media flap by going outside his chain of command to make his point.