Navy Capt. Brett Crozier’s reinstatement as the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s commanding officer has been delayed now that Acting Navy James E. McPherson has ordered a whole new investigation into the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak aboard the ship.
McPherson announced on Wednesday that he still has “unanswered questions” after reviewing the Navy’s preliminary inquiry into the outbreak and being briefed by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday.
Those questions can only be answered by a more comprehensive review into the matter, McPherson said in a statement.
“Therefore, I am directing Adm. Gilday to conduct a follow-on command investigation,” McPherson said. “This investigation will build on the good work of the initial inquiry to provide a more fulsome understanding of the sequence of events, actions, and decisions of the chain of command surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt.”
Lara Seligman of Politico was first to report on Wednesday that McPherson had initially agreed with Gilday's recommendation to reinstate Crozier immediately but was persuaded by Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to look into the matter further.
While Milley is not opposed to restoring Crozier’s command, he recommended to Defense Secretary Mark Esper that the Navy provide more answers to top military leaders, Politico reported.
Then-Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly fired Crozier on April 2 after the San Francisco Chronicle published a leaked copy of a memo he had sent warning his superiors that his sailors would die unless most of the crew were moved off the aircraft carrier and placed in individual quarantine.
As of Tuesday, 940 sailors aboard the Theodore Roosevelt had tested positive for COVID-19.
The Crozier controversy eventually cost Modly his job after he made a speech aboard the Theodore Roosevelt in which he called Crozier "too naïve or too stupid" to be in command and lambasted the crew for giving him a hero’s sendoff when he left the ship.
“My friend made the comparison that it was like disrespecting someone who has passed away at their wake,” a sailor serving aboard the Theodore Roosevelt told Task & Purpose on April 6.