The spotlight will continue to shine on Capt. Brett Crozier, who was relieved of command earlier this month after ringing alarm bells about the spread of COVID-19 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Despite recommending last week that Crozier be reinstated as commander of the Roosevelt, Acting Navy Secretary James McPherson said in a statement Wednesday that had he had “follow up” questions that could only be answered with more investigation — a “follow-on command investigation,” as he put it.
“This investigation will build on the good work of the initial inquiry to provide a more fulsome understanding of the sequence of events, actions, and decisions of the chain of command surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt,” McPherson said.
Crozier became a nationwide news story when a letter he wrote to Navy higher-ups warning of the spread of the novel coronavirus aboard his ship was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Navy officials did eventually heed the letter’s request, removing the vast majority of the ship’s crew. But then-Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly removed Crozier from his command as a result of the dust up. Modly told reporters at the time that Crozier could have “walked down the hall” to his immediate boss rather than sending a letter.
A few days later, Modly himself resigned after tape of him leaked calling Crozier “too naïve or too stupid” to command the ship. In the month since Crozier’s letter, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among Roosevelt sailors jumped from roughly 100 to 850.
Public opinion has rallied in Crozier’s favor: After viral video showed sailors on the Roosevelt giving a rousing ovation to Crozier as he left his command, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he would be open to reinstating Crozier’s command, dependent on the results of an investigation.
McPherson and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday reportedly met with Esper for two hours on Friday, explaining the conclusion of their initial investigation — that Crozier should be reinstated as commander of the Roosevelt.
Esper was expected to take the Navy’s recommendation but he did not, instead reportedly saying that he needed more time to make a decision.
Wednesday’s announcement didn’t specify what McPherson’s “unanswered questions” were. But he said the would only be answered “by a deeper review.”