Defense secretary says he's open to reinstating carrier captain who requested coronavirus help

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Esper confirms plans to drop below 5,000 troops in Afghanistan | State Department says it's cleared of wrongdoing in emergency arms sales before investigation's release 400 'hard-core' Taliban prisoners to be released ahead of Afghan peace talks Esper says officials still don't know source of Beirut blast MORE said he is open to reinstating the Navy captain who was removed from his post last week shortly after asking for help with a coronavirus outbreak aboard his ship.

"We've taken nothing off the table,” Esper said on CBS News Friday morning. “My inclination is always to support the chain of command, and to take the recommendations seriously."

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Capt. Brett Crozier, as commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, sent a letter to Esper pleading for help with an outbreak on the ship. That letter was eventually leaked to the media, which led to Crozier's removal.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned Tuesday after the release of transcripts and audio of an inflammatory speech a day earlier in which he said Crozier was either "naive" or "stupid” for taking the actions he did.

The Pentagon is actively investigating Crozier over the letter.

"There are always extreme cases where going outside the chain of command makes sense. That's why we want to see where this investigation takes us,” Esper said.  

Several Navy hospital ships have been sent around the country to alleviate hospital, including in New York City. Esper said Friday that what “keeps him up at night” is maintaining enough medical staff to battle the virus. 

“The biggest challenge is the medical staff, is making sure you have sufficient doctors and nurses,” he said. “For me, because I have these mobile capability inherent in the military, is to maintain adaptability and be agile."