Fired as acting Navy secretary, Modly is now stuck in COVID-19 quarantine

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Thomas Modly is no longer the Acting Secretary of the Navy, but that doesn't mean the Navy's letting him go anytime soon.

The Navy's former top civilian is currently in quarantine, along with two of his staff, following his ill-fated April 5 visit to the USS Theodore Roosevelt in Guam, Task & Purpose has learned.

USA Today's Tom Vanden Brook first reported on Modly's current status in a report that revealed that Modly took an $243,000, 8,000-mile flight to Guam before getting formal approval for the specifics of the trip.

Modly's office "had informed the Pentagon orally before the trip that he intended to use more than one [air]crew," but failed to officially file a waiver required under a 2018 Pentagon policy to cover the trip, USA Today reports.

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly, testifies to the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing examining military housing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 3, 2019.

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly, testifies to the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing examining military housing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 3, 2019.

Modly had travelled to the Roosevelt in response to the leak of a letter from the ship's ousted commander Capt. Brett Crozier pleading with the Navy to evacuate the vessel in order to halt the spread of the virus among the crew.

“Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier wrote in a memo. “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors."

Speaking over the ship's intercom on April 5, Modly chastised sailors for enthusiastically cheering for Crozier as he departed the ship for the last time, calling the captain either "too naive or too stupid to be a commanding officer" of their ship.

"You are under no obligation to like your job, only to do it," Modly told the crew. "You are under no obligation, you are under no obligation to expect anything from your leaders other than they will treat you fairly and put the mission of the ship first."

Leaked audio of Modly's remarks, published by Task & Purpose, sparked an outcry from lawmakers who demanded his removal or resignation over comments that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) dubbed “completely inappropriate.”

Modly offered an apology for his remarks on April 6 before offering up his resignation to Defense Secretary Mark Esper the following day.

"The crew deserved a lot more empathy and a lot less lecturing," Modly wrote. " ... I disappointed you by not keeping [the Navy and Marine Corps] out of harm’s way. It’s my fault. I own it."

As of Tuesday, nearly 600 sailors aboard the Roosevelt have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the latest Navy figures. One sailor has died from complications due to the virus

One thing is clear: Modly has plenty of time to think over his mistake during his 14-day quarantine. 

Task & Purpose Pentagon correspondent Jeff Schogol contributed reporting