Former Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Natalie M. Byers

Navy's Modly resigns over comments about USS Roosevelt's captain

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned after audio surfaced of him calling the now-ex-commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt "stupid" in front of crew members. Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson will be the new acting Navy secretary until a permanent one is confirmed, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced via memo April 7.

The resignation comes after Modly apologized for the way he handled and fired Capt. Brett Crozier following an outbreak of COVID-19 on the Roosevelt earlier this month. Modly said his decision was a preemptive move before the White House could get involved, the Washington Post reported.

Modly flew to Guam to address the crew a week after firing Crozier for sending a letter outside of the chain of command asking for help for his crew as COVID-19 inspections spread on the ship.

Modly said at an April 2 news briefing that Crozier’s letter "raised concerns about the operational capabilities and operational security of that ship that could have emboldened our adversaries" and "undermined the chain of command, who had been moving and adjusting as rapidly as possible to get him the help he needed."

The sudden firing of the ship's captain brought questions from members of Congress. The House Armed Services Committee sent out a joint statement April 2 calling Crozier’s removal "a destabilizing move that will likely put our service members at greater risk and jeopardize our fleet’s readiness."

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the ranking member for the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an April 2 statement the “incident raises critical questions about the Navy’s strategy to combat COVID-19 within the ranks and onboard ships and submarines” including whether the Navy should be doing more.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the House Armed Services Committee ranking Republican, said Modly’s resignation "should allow the country to put this episode behind us and allow sailors to focus on the very important missions at hand."

Modly’s resignation is the latest Navy leadership churn in recent months. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer resigned in November 2019 after he made comments criticizing the White House for intervening in the discipline of a Navy SEAL commando suspected of war crimes. Modly, then Navy undersecretary, became the acting secretary.

Reader comments

Thu, Apr 9, 2020

The Captain should be reinstated by President Trump to demonstrate compassionate leadership

Wed, Apr 8, 2020

Any ship's Captain's primary duty is to protect his crew & ship. It sounds to me like that is what he was doing. Is the Navy, like so many government entities, overburden with too many layers of bureaucrats? Yes officers can be bureacrats!

Wed, Apr 8, 2020 S. White USA

He put his crew, his vessel and this nation's defense in jeopardy, by allowing shore leave when he went to Danang, at the start of this pandemic.

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2020 Digital Almanac

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