Home Americas US Navy Secretary resigns in wake of carrier Roosevelt controversy

US Navy Secretary resigns in wake of carrier Roosevelt controversy

Thomas Modly
Thomas Modly during a visit to USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) in January this year. US Navy file photo

Acting Secretary of the US Navy, Thomas Modly, has resigned after his comments about the commanding officer of aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak on the ship.

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper accepted Modly’s resignation on April 7.

Modly’s resignation comes after leaked audio from his visit to the carrier showed him saying the fired commander of USS Theodore Roosevelt, Capt. Brett Crozier was either “naive or stupid” or had deliberately acted to publicize sensitive information.

Crozier penned a letter to superiors pleading for enhanced testing and isolation aboard the carrier, which was forced to pull into Guam after sailors tested positive for COVID-19. He was fired on April 2, after the letter was leaked to the press.

In a statement on April 7, Esper said Modly resigned on his own accord, “putting the navy and the sailors above self” so that the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and the navy as an institution, can move forward.

Esper added he would appoint current Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson as acting Secretary of the Navy, pending president Trump’s approval.

“I want to apologize to the navy for my recent comments to the crew of the TR. Let me be clear, I do not think Capt. Brett Crozier is naïve nor stupid. I think, and always believed him to be the opposite,” Modly said in a statement. “I believe, precisely because he is not naive and stupid, that he sent his alarming email with the intention of getting it into the public domain in an effort to draw public attention to the situation on his ship. I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused.”

House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) called Modly’s resignation the “right thing to do”.

“Acting Secretary Modly submitting his formal resignation to Secretary Esper was the right thing to do. After mismanaging the COVID-19 outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, it became obvious that Acting Secretary Modly had forfeited his ability to lead the Navy. His actions had become a distraction at a time when we need the Navy to be focused on preserving the safety of our sailors and maintaining the readiness of our fleet,” the HASC statement read.