WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee leadership – including Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Subcommittee Chairs Joe Courtney (D-CT), John Garamendi (D-CA), and Jackie Speier (D-CA) – today issued the following statement after Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly announced that Captain Brett E. Crozier will be relieved of his post as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier that has been grappling with the spread of COVID-19 cases among its Sailors:
“While Captain Crozier clearly went outside the chain of command, his dismissal at this critical moment – as the Sailors aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt are confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic – is a destabilizing move that will likely put our service members at greater risk and jeopardize our fleet’s readiness.
“The COVID pandemic presents a set of new challenges and there is much we still do not know. Captain Crozier was justifiably concerned about the health and safety of his crew, but he did not handle the immense pressure appropriately. However, relieving him of his command is an overreaction.
“Throwing the commanding officer overboard without a thorough investigation is not going to solve the growing crisis aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. What’s more, we are very concerned about the chilling effect this dismissal will have on commanders throughout the Department of Defense. Dismissing a commanding officer for speaking out on issues critical to the safety of those under their command discourages others from raising similar concerns.
“We are also concerned about the lack of guidance from Department of Defense leadership. Secretary Esper continues to say that commanders and non-commissioned officers should be calling the shots, forcing them to make decisions on matters outside of their expertise while under immense pressure.
“As the crew continues to grapple with this health crisis, the Navy should be focused first and foremost on the safety of our service members. Once they are secured, there will be ample time to identify what went wrong and who is to blame.”