US Defense chief backs Navy decision to oust US ship commander
WASHINGTON: US Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday defended the US Navy’s controversial decision to remove the commander of a coronavirus-stricken US aircraft carrier, saying it was a “tough call” but that ultimately it was “a chain of command issue.”
Acting US Navy Secretary Thomas Modly on Thursday relieved Captain Brett Crozier of his command of the Theodore Roosevelt after Crozier’s scathing letter calling on the Navy to do more to halt the spread of the virus aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was leaked to the media. The move sparked intense backlash with videos posted online showing sailors aboard the vessel cheering Crozier as he departed and more that 120,000 people signing an online petition calling for his reinstatement. It has also become a political lightning-rod as the Trump administration faces intense criticism for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
“Secretary Modly made a tough decision, a tough call. I have full faith and confidence in him and the Navy leadership, and I support their decision,” Esper said in an interview on ABC News’ “This Week” program.
“This is a chain of command issue. It’s an issue of trust and confidence in the captain of the ship,” he added.
The Pentagon said on Friday that Esper had confidence in Modly, but Esper’s remarks to ABC were the first time that he publicly commented on the issue.
Modly, in an interview with Reuters last week, said Crozier was being reassigned while Navy investigators examined whether he should face disciplinary action, adding that the commander’s letter was shared too widely and was in the press before he could even read it. - Reuters