WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement in response to the Acting Secretary of the Navy’s announcement that the Navy will conduct an additional investigation of the COVID-19 outbreak aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt:
“Given that the COVID spread on the Roosevelt was the first major outbreak that the DoD faced, it is perfectly legitimate to extend the investigation to fully understand what happened. It is important for us to know how the various people in the chain of command responded to this challenge – from the Sailors and Captain up to the fleet Commander and INDO-PACOM – what happened when they arrived in Guam, and how the decision-making process was informed. A forensic analysis of all these factors is enormously important.
“However, it is clear to me that there was no substantive reason to relieve Captain Crozier from his post as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt and I still believe the Secretary of Defense should reinstate him. I am deeply concerned that then-Acting Secretary of the Navy Modly made the decision to remove Crozier because he dared to criticize the chain of command and therefore his removal was expected by the White House.
“It is the job of our leaders at the Pentagon to support our national security, not suck up to the President. Yes, these individuals serve at the pleasure of the President, and they must be mindful of that, but in this Administration it appears you must become a sycophant in order to keep your job. The President’s need for his subordinates to constantly inflate his ego undermines competence throughout this administration. I do not want the Department of Defense to lose competence and simply become another organization whose job it is to pump up the President’s ego.
“One way the Department of Defense can easily prove they have not yet lost their competence is to reinstate Captain Crozier as the commanding officer of the Roosevelt. Every Pentagon will shift subtly to meet the needs of their Commander in Chief, as well they should, but Captain Crozier’s leadership should not be a casualty of a management style that only caters to the President’s ego.”