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Reports: Acting Navy Secretary Modly submits resignation after carrier fiasco; Army Undersecretary to replace him

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly speaks at a press briefing with the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David H. Berger, and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy E. Black about the Marine Corps and COVID-19, at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., March 26, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
April 07, 2020

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly submitted his resignation letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday after he made fiery comments about former aircraft carrier Capt. Brett Crozier.

Modly reportedly submitted his letter without pressure from the White House or Esper, Politico reported, citing an anonymous official.

James McPherson, the Acting Undersecretary of the Army, will reportedly replace Modly, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The resignation takes place one day after Modly delivered remarks to the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, during which he called Crozier “too naive or too stupid” to command the carrier.

“If he [Crozier] didn’t think, in my opinion, that this information [the letter] 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. The alternative is that he did this on purpose,” Modly said of Crozier.

Crozier had written a letter to the Navy last week pleading for help in isolating his crew amid a coronavirus outbreak board the aircraft carrier. The letter was leaked to the media, and on Thursday, the Navy relieved him, citing “lost confidence in his ability to lead.”

Hours after Modly’s remarks to the crew were leaked to the media on Monday, sparking outrage from sailors and lawmakers, Modly issued a statement apologizing for the remarks.

“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.”

President Trump had referred to Modly’s remarks as “rough” and indicated he was considering intervening in the situation.

Several members of Congress publicly condemned Modly’s remarks, including three of which are current or former members of the military who called for Modly’s removal.

Rep. Elaine Luria, a Navy veteran, said “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.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Marine veteran, said, “Modly should be removed unceremoniously for these shocking remarks — especially after failing to protect sailors’ safety & health. He has betrayed their trust.”

Rep. Ted Lieu, a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, said, “Our civilian-controlled military requires our troops to have confidence our civilian leaders always have their best interests in mind. @SECNAV Modly has now lost that confidence. He should resign.”

Days after being relieved of command, Crozier reportedly tested positive for coronavirus. As of Tuesday, 230 members of the USS Theodore Roosevelt crew have also tested positive.