The Navy has recommended reinstating Capt. Brett Crozier as commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, according to reports, in a move that would be unprecedented.
The recommendation was first reported by The New York Times and shortly after was reported by several other outlets as well.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday and acting Navy Secretary James McPherson made the recommendation to Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday when briefing him about the results of the investigation into the coronavirus outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier, according to the Times.
Esper asked for more time to consider whether to reinstate Crozier, the Times added.
In a statement Friday afternoon, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Esper is awaiting a written copy of the investigation to “discuss next steps.”
“This afternoon, Secretary Esper received a verbal update from the acting secretary of the Navy and the chief of naval operations on the Navy’s preliminary inquiry into the COVID-19 outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt,” Hoffman said.
“After the secretary receives a written copy of the completed inquiry, he intends to thoroughly review the report and will meet again with Navy leadership to discuss next steps. He remains focused on and committed to restoring the full health of the crew and getting the ship at sea again soon.”
The Navy said in its own statement that McPherson’s conversations with Esper are ongoing after Gilday presented recommendations to McPherson and that “no final decisions have been made.”
Following the reports, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Calif.) called on Esper to reinstate Crozier “immediately.” A congressional aide said Smith has not yet been briefed on the investigation.
“While Capt. Crozier’s actions at the outset of the health crisis aboard the TR were drastic and imperfect, it is clear he only took such steps to protect his crew,” Smith said in a statement. “Not only did Captain Crozier have the full support of his crew, he also attempted to work within his chain of command. During this time of crisis, Capt. Crozier is exactly what our sailors need: a leader who inspires confidence.”
Crozier was removed from his position as the commander of the Roosevelt after a letter he wrote pleading for help with a coronavirus outbreak aboard leaked to the press.
Earlier, the Pentagon had said Esper would be “generally inclined” to support the Navy’s recommendation.
“He’s going into this with an open mind, and he is generally inclined to support Navy leadership in their decisions,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters at a briefing before Esper was given the recommendation.
“But he will go into it with an open mind, and we will, once he’s briefed, we will see where that takes us,” he added.
The Navy opened an investigation into the situation on the Roosevelt after its coronavirus outbreak turned into a political firestorm.
Crozier’s letter asked for permission to offload all but 10 percent of the ship’s crew and warned that “sailors do not have to die.”
Crozier was fired by then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly after the letter leaked. Modly resigned after he traveled to Guam to give a speech about the Roosevelt that berated Crozier as “stupid” or “naive.”
When he fired Crozier, Modly publicly justified the move by saying the letter was sent to “20 or 30” people, something Modly called “just not acceptable.”
But a copy of the letter obtained by The Washington Post last week showed Crozier sent it to the three admirals and copied it to seven captains.
Top officials, including Esper, had not ruled out reinstating Crozier when the Navy’s investigation was complete.
President Trump has suggested that while he believes Crozier should not have sent the letter, the captain’s career shouldn’t be destroyed for a “bad day.”
As of Friday, the Navy reported 856 positive cases of coronavirus among the USS Roosevelt crew, with 112 recovered and four in the hospital. One sailor died last week.
The Navy said Thursday it finished testing the entire crew for the virus, but a “small number” of results are still pending. The Navy has moved 4,234 crew members to shore in Guam.
“One of my constituents whose son serves aboard the Theodore Roosevelt told me that she adamantly believes Capt. Crozier’s actions saved her son’s life,” Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subpanel, said in a statement Friday.
“As we’ve now seen, over 800 crew members aboard the Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive with cases of the virus, and hundreds of crew members are still in quarantine – that demonstrates that Capt. Crozier exercised sound judgement, and did not ‘panic,’ as was alleged at the time of his firing.”
Author: Rebecca Kheel