As the call rings out from the fleet to Capitol Hill for an investigation into — or the firing of — acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly over his dismissal of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt’s skipper on Thursday, senior Defense Department officials are taking a beat to discuss the situation.
In a speech Modly gave over aircraft carrier’s intercom system Monday morning, the Navy’s top civilian accused Capt. Brett Crozier of either being “too naïve or too stupid” to think that his March 30 email to Navy senior leadership would not be leaked. Modly then went on to tell sailors that the media is not a resource for them and that they were not required to love their ship’s captain.
“We have not had an opportunity to talk about the Navy secretary’s remarks that were reported this morning," senior Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters Monday, when asked whether Defense Secretary Mark Esper still has confidence in Modly.
Modly’s speech came after Roosevelt sailors sent Crozier off amid applause, cheering and chanting on Friday. In the recording, an exasperated sailor can be heard shouting an expletive after Modly’s comments about Crozier’s character.
“And I can tell you one other thing: because he did that he put it in the public’s forum ... it is now a big controversy in Washington, D.C,” Modly said, referencing Crozier’s inclusion of personnel outside his chain of command on the unsecured email.
"If he didn’t think, in my opinion, that this information wasn’t going to get out to the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either A, too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this. The alternative is that he did this on purpose.”
Even before the speech, lawmakers had called for Modly’s firing or resignation. More joined that chorus on Monday.
“TR sailors are on the front lines of this pandemic and of our nation’s defense in the Pacific,” Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Virginia, said in a release. “Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly’s remarks to the crew show that he is in no way fit to lead our Navy through this trying time. Secretary Esper should immediately fire him.”
Hoffman told reporters Friday that at the time of Crozier’s firing, Esper supported Modly in his decision to relieve him for loss of confidence.
On Monday, Hoffman assured reporters he would come back with an official response after discussing the matter with Esper.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.