The commander who sounded the alarm about an outbreak of the novel coronavirus on a U.S. aircraft carrier that has more than 5,000 people on board has been relieved of his command.
Captain Brett Crozier who commands the USS Theodore Roosevelt will retain his rank and remain in the Navy, acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said during a Pentagon press briefing Thursday.
Crozier, 50, was removed from his post after he sent a letter to Navy leadership pleading for help to remove most of the crew aboard his ship. In the letter, he warned Navy leadership that sailors could die if they didn't take immediate action to address the outbreak of COVID-19 on his ship.
The letter was obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle and published on Tuesday, generating a series of headlines and controversy for Navy leadership.
"This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do," Crozier wrote. "We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors."
Modly said that he had no doubt that Crozier had done what he believed was the best interest in the safety and well-being of his crew.
"Unfortunately, it did the opposite. It unnecessarily raised the alarm of the families of our sailors and Marines with no plans to address those concerns," said Modly.
Modly blamed Crozier for copying too many people on the memo about the coronavirus outbreak, which led to an increased chance of it being leaked to the press. He said Crozier showed "extremely poor judgment in times of crisis."
Modly says he takes full responsibility for removing Crozier after concluding that the complexity of the challenge of the COVID-19 outbreak on Crozier's ship had overwhelmed "his ability to act professionally."
"The responsibility for this decision rests with me," Modly added. "I expect no congratulations for it. Captain Crozier is an incredible man."
The move was blasted by former Vice President Joe Biden, who said in a statement that the Navy's acting secretary had "shot the messenger" and called Crozier a "commanding officer who was faithful to both his national security mission and his duty to care for his sailors, and who rightly focused attention on a broader concern about how to maintain military readiness during this pandemic."
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