Esper Accepts Resignation of Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly

The U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper accepted the resignation of Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly on April 7 and announced that he is appointing current Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson as Acting Secretary of the Navy.

“This morning I accepted Secretary Modly’s resignation. He resigned on his own accord, putting the Navy and the Sailors above self so that the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, and the Navy as an institution, can move forward. His care for the Sailors was genuine. Secretary Modly served the nation for many years, both in and out of uniform. I have the deepest respect for anyone who serves our country, and who places the greater good above all else. Secretary Modly did that today, and I wish him all the best”, Secretary Esper said in a statement. [Full statement]

Thomas Modly submitted his resignation earlier in the day after calling the now-relieved commander of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, Capt. Brett E. Crozier, “stupid” in an address to the ship’s crew Monday morning.

Modly visited the carrier which is currently pierside in the U.S. territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean and addressed the crew via the ship’s internal loudspeaker system.

“If he didn’t think, in my opinion, that this information wasn’t going to get out into the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either A, too naive, or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this,” Modly told the carrier’s crew. “The alternative is that he did this on purpose. And that’s a serious violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice [UCMJ ] which you are all familiar with.”

Modly initially said in a statement that he stands by “every word” he said to the crew but later apologized for the statement after being asked by Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

“Let me be clear, I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naive nor stupid. I think, and always believed him to be the opposite,” Modly said in his statement. “We pick our carrier commanding officers with great care. Captain Crozier is smart and passionate. I believe, precisely because he is not naive and stupid, that he sent his alarming email with the intention of getting it into the public domain in an effort to draw public attention to the situation on his ship. I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused.”

Capt. Crozier was relieved by Modly for writing a letter about the COVID-19 outbreak on the carrier which was later leaked to the press. San Fransisco Chronicle was first to report on the four-page letter by Capt. Brett Crozier in which he requested the Navy officials for resources to allow isolation of his entire crew and avoid possible deaths in a situation he described as quickly deteriorating.

USS Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Guam on Mar. 27 for, what the Navy calls, a scheduled port visit. Prior to the port visit, three Sailors tested positive for COVID-19 aboard the carrier. According to the latest reports, the vessel currently has more than 150 COVID-19 cases.

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