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US Navy won’t reinstate Capt. Crozier as commander of carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt

Capt. Brett Crozier addresses the crew for the first time as commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during a change of command ceremony on the ship’s flight deck. Crozier relieved Capt. Carlos Sardiello to become the 16th commanding officer of Theodore Roosevelt. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sean Lynch/Released)
June 19, 2020

Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday have released the findings of their investigation into the firing of USS Theodore Roosevelt commander Capt. Brett Crozier, which concluded that the firing was justified.

After nearly two months, the broad investigation launched on April 29 concluded that Capt. Crozier should not be reinstated due to “poor decisions” made in response to the coronavirus outbreak aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt.

“I will not reinstate Capt. Brett Crozier as commander of USS Theodore Roosevelt,” Adm. Gilday announced on Friday. “Nor will he be eligible for future command.”

Crozier was fired from his command of the aircraft carrier on April 2 after a letter to his chain of command pleading for help to contain the coronavirus outbreak aboard the carrier had leaked to the media days earlier.

Braithwaite and Gilday also decided that Crozier’s direct supervisor, Rear Adm. Stuart Baker, will also be held accountable for his response to the ship’s coronavirus outbreak, and his promotion to two-star admiral will be delayed.

Upon the results of a preliminary investigation, Gilday had recommended Crozier’s reinstatement on April 24. On Friday, however, Gilday said the broader investigation revealed additional details that changed his decision.

“The much broader, deeper investigation we conducted in the weeks following had a much deeper scope,” Gilday said. “Had I known then what I know today, I would’ve not made that recommendation to reinstate Capt. Crozier. Moreover, if Capt. Crozier was still in command today, I would be relieving him.”

Gilday said Crozier and Baker “did not do enough soon enough to fulfill their primary obligation” and failed to carry out the Navy’s guidelines for preventing the spread of coronavirus. Crozier may have increased the spread of the virus aboard the ship when he released sailors from quarantine too soon, Gilday noted.

Gilday added that the email Crozier sent to his chain of command was unnecessary, as the Navy was already securing quarters on land in Guam to quarantine sailors before Crozier’s letter was ever sent. More than 2,400 beds were allocated for quarantined sailors within a week, and far above the 1,000 initially requested.

Further, Crozier “put the comfort of the crew above their safety,” by improperly following quarantine guidelines, Gilday said.

The Navy had opened the broad investigation nearly two months ago when then-Acting Navy Secretary James McPherson announced on April 29, citing “unanswered questions” he was left with following Gilday’s preliminary inquiry. The deeper investigation was also spurred by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s request of a written report before he could decide whether or not to reinstate Crozier.

Also on Friday, Chief Pentagon Spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said that Esper supported the investigation and its findings.

“The Secretary of the Navy briefed Secretary Esper earlier today on the findings of the investigation into the USS Theodore Roosevelt COVID response. Secretary Esper believes the investigation to have been thorough and fair and supports the Navy’s decisions based on their findings.  We are proud of the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt and am glad that they are back at sea in the western Pacific projecting American power,” Hoffman said.