The captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt will not be reinstated following an investigation into a massive outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) aboard the ship that sickened 1,273 sailors and ultimately led to the acting Navy secretary to resign, a Congressional aide confirmed on Friday.
Politico and Reuters first reported that Capt. Brett Crozier would not return as the Theodore Roosevelt’s commanding officer. He was fired on April 2 after the San Francisco Chronicle published a leaked copy of an urgent memo to roughly 11 commanders in U.S. Pacific Fleet warning that sailors aboard the Theodore Roosevelt would die unless most of the crew were placed into individual quarantine, which was impossible they entire crew stayed on the ship.
Thomas Modly, the acting Navy secretary at the time, claimed that Crozier had been irresponsible for distributing his memo so broadly, but he acknowledged that the real reason he was firing Crozier was the fact that the media learned of just how dire conditions aboard the aircraft carrier were.
“If he didn't think, in my opinion, that this information wasn't going to get out into the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either A, too naive, or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this,” Modly told the Theodore Roosevelt’s crew in a disastrous April 5 address that ultimately cost him his job. “The alternative is that he did this on purpose. And that's a serious violation of the UCMJ which you are all familiar with.”
Navy officials had initially wanted to reinstate Capt. Brett Crozier as the Theodore Roosevelt’s commanding officer following a preliminary inquiry into the coronavirus outbreak aboard the ship, but then-Acting Navy Secretary James McPherson ordered a full investigation into the matter on April 29, explaining that he still had “unanswered questions.”
That investigation came after Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had advised Defense Secretary Mark Esper that the Navy needed to delve into the matter further in order to provide more answers to top Pentagon leaders about the coronavirus outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier.
The Theodore Roosevelt had to spend nearly two months in Guam after its March port call to Da Nang, Vietnam. Adm. Philip Davidson, head of U.S. Pacific Command, decided that the aircraft carrier should visit Vietnam in spite of the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
One source told Politico that the Navy investigation revealed that Crozier made poor decisions in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
“The results of the investigation justified the relief,” one person who saw the investigation told Politico. “He failed to take appropriate action, to do the things that the commanding officer of a ship is supposed to do, so he stays relieved.”
Still, no other punitive action will be taken against the captain, a congressional aide said.
Meanwhile, the Navy is expected to announce that it is putting Rear Adm. Stuart Baker's promotion to a second star on hold due to the investigation into the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on board the Theodore Roosevelt, sources told Reuters and Politico. Baker was in charge of the strike group of which the ship is a part.
“Strike Group Command will also be held accountable for poor decision-making and his second star is being put on hold,” the aide told Politico.