The US Navy has relieved the captain of the coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt days after his plea for help for his sailors went public.
Acting US Navy Secretary Thomas Modly announced on Thursday afternoon that Captain Brett Crozier had been relieved of his command of the nuclear aircraft carrier, four days after he penned a scathing letter to Navy leaders calling for stronger action to address the COVID-19 outbreak he said was unnecessarily threatening his sailors lives.
Modly said that the decision was driven by the fact that Crozier shared his letter with at least 20 people before it was leaked in the media on Tuesday.
The secretary insisted that he was not accusing Crozier of leaking the letter himself.
But he did say that the people Crozier shared the letter with included people ‘outside the chain of command’.
Moldy said the decision to send the letter ‘raised alarm bells unnecessarily’ and accused Crozier of ‘extremely poor judgement’ and creating a ‘little bit of a panic’ on the ship.
He also accused Crozier of undermining the effectiveness of one of the United States’ most important strategic assets in the Pacific.
Modly said: ‘It [sending the letter] raised concerns about the operational capabilities of that ship… that could have emboldened our adversaries to seek advantage.
The Roosevelt is nuclear-powered but it is not known if nuclear weapons are aboard. It is operating in the Pacific where China are the primary naval threats to the US.
‘For these reason i lost confidence in his ability to lead that warship.’
‘We should expect more from commanding officer of our aircraft carriers.’
‘Captain Crozier allowed the complexity of the Co-Vid outbreak on ship to overhwhelm his professionalism’.
‘Relieving him of command was in the best interest of the US Navy and the nation.’
The news comes as at least 93 members of the USS Roosevelt’s 5,000-person crew have tested positive for COVID-19 and results are pending for hundreds of others.
Moldy said hundreds of sailors would eventually test positive but insisted that none of them would need hospitalization. He also accused Crozier of creating panic by suggesting two sailors would die.
And he insisted that he Department of Defense was already taking the necessary action to protect the sailors of the Theodore Roosevelt before Crozier sent his letter.
The Navy is in the process of evacuating 2,700 sailors from the ship which is currently docked in Guam.
The USS Roosevelt was in the middle of a deployment to the Philippine and South China Seas when the Navy ordered it to cease sail on March 26 after at least 25 crew members tested positive.
In his four-page letter to Navy leaders, Crozier warned that the outbreak was ‘ongoing and accelerating’ and called for the immediate evacuation and isolation of 90 percent of the USS Roosevelt crew.
‘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,’ the captain wrote.
Crozier’s extraordinary plea was made public on Tuesday – putting the Pentagon on the defensive about whether it was doing enough to keep the USS Roosevelt’s crew safe as lawmakers and families of military members express concerns that other ships could be vulnerable to outbreaks.
Acting US Navy Secretary Thomas Modly had previously said Crozier would ‘absolutely not’ face retaliation for writing the letter – but indicated that he would be punished if officials found that he was the one who leaked it.
‘The fact that he wrote the letter up to his chain of command to express his concerns would absolutely not result in any type of retaliation,’ Modly told reporters on Wednesday.
Asked repeatedly about how the letter came to light publicly, he said: ‘I don’t know who leaked the letter to the media.
‘That would be something that would violate the principles of good order and discipline, if he [Crozier] were responsible for that. But I don’t know that.’