Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, when the virus made it on board the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, its then-Captain Brett Crozier penned a letter demanding help for those on board, because, as he indicated, lives could be on the line. That letter eventually made it out to the media — and then-Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly promptly fired Crozier, and in a follow-up address to the crew of Crozier’s ship, suggested that the captain might be “too naive or too stupid” to lead. Now, after Modly’s own resignation, Defense Secretary Mark Esper indicated during an appearance this week on CBS that he’s open to reinstating Crozier on his old ship, pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation.
Crozier, for his part, actually tested positive for the Coronavirus himself, and when he left his ship, he got a hero’s send-off, with video widely circulating showing chants from sailors in support. Host Gayle King asked about the possibility of Crozier’s reinstatement, and Esper explained:
‘When I replaced the acting Navy Secretary three days ago, I called him and the chief of Naval operations into my office, and I gave them some guidance. One of the things I told them is this: no further action will be taken against Captain Crozier until the investigation is completed, and once that’s completed, we’ll see where that takes us, and so, we’ve taken nothing off the table. What I look to do is hear from the chain of command. My inclination is always to support the chain of command, and to take their recommendations seriously… At some point here in the coming days, they will come to me and share with me their findings.’
NEW: Sec. of Defense Mark Esper (@EsperDoD) on whether he's open to reinstating Captain Brett Crozier: "We've taken nothing off the table… My inclination is always to support the chain of command, and to take the recommendations seriously." pic.twitter.com/j89PoLj9mN
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) April 10, 2020
King asked the follow-up question of whether respecting the chain of command could be breached if lives were on the line, as Crozier indicated, and Esper acknowledged that some circumstances might call for such a move.
As he put it:
‘There are always extreme cases where going outside the chain of command makes sense. That’s why we want to see where this investigation takes us.’
It’s not clear, however, how much credibility that investigation should actually have. The just recently resigned acting Navy Secretary Modly cost taxpayers an estimated $243,000 just to fly to Guam, where Crozier’s ship was docked, and deliver his address to the crew bashing their former leader. Will people be involved in the “investigation” who allowed that to happen?
Acting Navy secretary Thomas Modly's trip to Guam, a visit that resulted in his resignation, cost taxpayers at least $243,151.65, according to a Navy estimate. https://t.co/pSpTgpOIjl
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 8, 2020
Over 170 members of the crew of the Theodore Roosevelt were confirmed to have contracted the Coronavirus as of earlier this week. There have been eight deaths and over 3,100 cases of the virus confirmed among members of the U.S. military as a whole, among almost 18,000 American deaths and counting from the virus.
Besides attempting to care for those who are afflicted within their own ranks, the military has also been assisting Coronavirus response efforts across the country through means like the deployment of Navy hospital ships to help boost the capacity of local medical systems in hard-hit areas, which have faced thousands upon thousands of hospitalizations.