WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) and Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) called for an investigation into whether the Secretary of the Navy acted inappropriately by relieving an aircraft carrier Captain who expressed concern about coronavirus spreading among servicemembers in the Captain’s charge.
In the letter, the Members wrote:
Dear Acting Inspector General Fine:
As veterans, we were taught that protecting the health and safety of troops was one of the highest priorities of any commander. As Members of Congress, we are disturbed that Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly relieved Captain Brett Crozier of command of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. Captain Crozier had written a letter to his chain of command that requested the majority of the personnel be removed from the aircraft carrier because Covid-19 was spreading though the ship. Secretary Modly’s personnel action looks like retaliation and sends the message that the Navy does not want commanders to speak out to protect personnel. We request an investigation into whether the action by Secretary Modly was appropriate or legal.
The letter by Captain Crozier requesting removal of personnel from the aircraft carrier was blunt and stark. He wrote “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset—our Sailors.” Captain Crozier noted that “[d]ue to a warship’s inherent limitations of space,” it was not possible to follow official guidelines for quarantine and social distancing. He warned that “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.”
Although Captain Crozier’s letter appeared in the press, Secretary Modly did not accuse Captain Crozier of providing the letter to the press when he relieved him of command on April 2. It also appears Captain Crozier was absolutely correct: personnel needed to be removed from the aircraft carrier as soon as possible in order to prevent further spread of Covid-19 to our sailors.
Based on the above, it appears a prima facie case for retaliation by the Navy against Captain Crozier may have been established. We urge you to open an investigation into this matter as soon as possible.
Ted W. Lieu
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