Captain Crozier, Secretary of the Navy Under POTUS 46
April 4, 2020
Commander of the U.S. aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, Captain Brett Crozier was relieved of his command on Thursday. And it is an outrage that perfectly fits with the Trump Administration.
While President Trump has pardoned military personnel found guilty of war crimes and publicly absolved disgraced Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, restoring his SEAL Trident even though his teammates had identified Gallagher as “evil” and “toxic” for routinely shooting civilians and emptying a heavy machine gun into a town without any identifiable targets, Mr. Trump seems to see no room for error when it comes to a naval captain acting to save his sailors from the ravages of the COVID19 pandemic.
Captain Crozier was removed from his command because he sent a memo to several dozen U.S. Navy officials at Pacific Fleet headquarters through unsecured channels. The memo stated very directly the need to act quickly in regards to the infection of dozens of sailors aboard his boat with COVID19. His strongly worded memo was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle who published a report.
The acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly who was the only person to make the decision to remove Crozier has said, "I have no information nor am I trying to suggest that he [Captain Crozier] leaked the information.” Secretary Modly continued by stating, "I have no doubt in my mind that Captain Crozier did what he thought was in the best interest of the safety and well-being of his crew."
Yet, Mr. Modly believed the prudent move was to remove a highly experienced commander, whose mission plays a vital role to the Pacific Fleet’s ability to thwart national security threats, during the greatest global crisis since World War II.
Something doesn’t seem right.
Being in command at sea is a responsibility of great magnitude—it is unlike any other command in the United States military. Captain Crozier was in a unique position to understand the threat of COVID19 aboard his vessel, the risk to the sailors under his command, and the threat it posed to the Theodore Roosevelt’s ability to carry out its mission.
Captain Crozier is also no rookie. He has been in the Navy since 1992. Before taking command of the Theodore Roosevelt, he was the executive officer for three years aboard another aircraft carrier. His resume also includes command of the U.S.S Blue Ridge, an amphibious command flagship of the Seventh Fleet with a primary role of providing command, control, communications, and intelligence to the commander and staff of the Seventh Fleet.
With these credentials and knowledge, it is hard to fathom that when Captain Crozier sent his strongly worded memo to Pacific Naval Command, he had not exhausted all other usual secured channels of communication—to both the admiral of the strike group and to the command center at Pearl Harbor.
A now viral video of his crew chanting his name, clapping, and whistling admiration as he disembarks after his removal, shows that his crew has deep admiration and thanks for their captain—for the decisive action Crozier took.
With the intensity of the crew’s response, combined with what we know about the situation, it seems only logical to conclude the pandemic was rapidly overwhelming the medical staff aboard the Theodore Roosevelt and the response from decision makers immediately above Captain Crozier was inadequate at best and inept at worst.
It's also important to point out that back in Washington, acting Secretary Modly who dismissed Crozier, is an acting Secretary. Acting Secretaries are inherently weak. Not because of the caliber of personality but because of the time-limit at the job. Under law, being an acting Secretary means only 210 days at the helm.
Temporary leadership means a leader has little time to get up to speed. It also means critical decision making for long-term needs is impaired. Further, being in an acting capacity puts pressure on the individual to operate with distinction so as to be nominated for the permanent position or be appointed to a different role in the government. Under the Trump Administration, this pressure has never been greater. If you please Mr. Trump, receive a reward. Anger Mr. Trump, and be dismissed.
All of this compounds the need to ask the president what he knew and when—was the president aware of the crisis aboard the Theodore Roosevelt? He is the commander-in-chief, after all. Mr. Modly has stated publicly that he has been working on the problem since at least March 25. If the president did not know, why was that? If he did know, what was his response to the crisis and what was his response when the San Francisco Chronicle published their report?
Asked at a press conference earlier this week about the events in the South Pacific, President Trump simply said, “let the military make that decision.” A curious statement given the president's interference in military justice by pardoning American soldiers found guilty of murder and restoring Gallagher's SEAL Trident.
What’s next for Captain Crozier is anybody’s guess. But barring any radical twist to the events regarding COVID19 aboard the U.S.S Theodore Roosevelt, when the 46th president takes over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he or she should nominate Captain Brett Crozier for Secretary of the Navy. After all, decisive action is what we want from our leaders—taking the best information, weighing the pros and cons, and then acting to minimize losses and maximize gains to solve the problem or avert a larger crisis.