Naval leaders recommend reinstating fired commander who sounded the alarm about coronavirus outbreak: report

Naval leaders recommend reinstating fired commander who sounded the alarm about coronavirus outbreak: report
Capt. Brett E. Crozier, commanding officer of the U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), shows Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer and his wife, Polly Spencer, the bridge during a tour of the ship.
News & Politics

Although former U.S. Navy Secretary Thomas Modly lambasted Capt. Brett Crozier for sounding the alarm about a coronavirus outbreak on board a Navy warship, Crozier has been widely hailed as a hero for trying to save the lives of crew members — and NPR is reporting that naval leaders are recommending that he be reinstated.

Modly was highly critical of Crozier for violating the U.S. Navy’s strict chain of command by warning about an outbreak of coronavirus on the USS Theodore Roosevelt — a warship in the Pacific. Crozier’s crew, however, gave him a standing ovation when he departed the warship, obviously grateful for his efforts to protect crew members. Modly, after publicly insulting Crozier as “naïve” and “stupid,” apologized and resigned from his position as U.S. Navy secretary.

Tom Bowman, an NPR Pentagon correspondent, told NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly that NPR “confirmed” the recommendation that Crozier be reinstated through a “U.S. official who is not authorized to talk. “

Bowman explained, “The Navy is not saying anything about this, and the Pentagon would only say that Defense Secretary Mark Esper got a verbal update from Navy officials about this case and will review the written investigation. And among the Navy officials who signed off on this reinstatement, we’re told, is Adm. Mike Gilday, the top Navy officer. And what’s curious is: Adm. Gilday stood next to the Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly earlier this month and said he supported Modly’s decision to fire Capt. Crozier.”

The U.S. Navy, Bowman noted, has a very strict “chain of command” — and Navy officials believe that Crozier violated it when he sent a warning about the coronavirus outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and “did not alert his immediate superior to his letter.”

Bowman told Kelly, that Crozier’s reinstatement “comes at the end of a very messy series of events that resulted in the resignation of Acting Secretary Thomas Modly, who fired Crozier. And also, President Trump weighed in on this. He was saying that Crozier should not have sent out the letter, and he agreed with the firing.”

The crisis on the Theodore Roosevelt showed how easily and how quickly the COVID-19 coronavirus can spread. Crozier himself tested positive for coronavirus, and Bowman noted that “some 850 of the 5000-sailor crew tested positive.”

Bowman said of Crozier, “As far as we know, he’s doing much better. And he’s still on Guam, along with his carrier. He was relieved of command of the Roosevelt, but the Navy said he would get another job.”

Task & Purpose’s Jeff Schogol reports that while naval leaders want to reinstate Crozier immediately, “the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has recommended that the Navy first provide answers to all of the questions that top military leaders have.” U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, Schogol notes, “wants the Navy to conduct a deeper inquiry into Crozier’s firing.”

On April 24, Nancy A. Youssef and Lindsay Wise of the Wall Street Journal reported that Jonathan Hoffman (a spokesman for Esper) “said the secretary would thoroughly review a written copy of the investigation report and meet with Navy officials again ‘to discuss next steps.’” According to Hoffman’s statement, Esper “remains focused on and committed to restoring the full health of the crew and getting the ship at sea again soon.”

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