Esper: Dismissal of aircraft carrier commander an ‘example of how we hold leaders accountable’
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday defended the Navy’s decision to remove Capt. Brett Crozier, the commanding officer who warned of a coronavirus outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, without an investigation, saying it is an “example of how we hold leaders accountable.”
“I think acting [Navy] Secretary [Thomas] Modly made a very tough decision, a decision that I supported. It was based on his view that he lost faith and confidence in the captain based on his action,” Esper said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“I think it’s just another example of how we hold leaders accountable for their actions,” Esper added.
CNN’s @JakeTapper presses Defense Sec. Esper on why Capt. Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt was removed from his position before a completed investigation. Crozier was fired after writing a memo saying that crew needed help after the coronavirus hit his ship. #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/Oo1vdKdVYI
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) April 5, 2020
Crozier was relieved of his command after a letter he penned pleading for help as the aircraft carrier struggled with a coronavirus outbreak.
CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Esper if there should have at least been an investigation first.
“There is an investigation ongoing, but at this point in time Sec. Modly did not have faith and confidence that he could continue his role as captain of the services at this ship,” Esper responded. “This is not unheard of.”
Esper said that the action is not “unique to the Navy,” but he said the Navy has a “culture of swiftly and decisively removing captains if they lose confidence in them.”
Esper also said that over half of the ship has been tested and 155 sailors have tested positive for the coronavirus. Of the positive cases, he said all are “mild to moderate” and have not required hospitalization.