Overnight Defense: Navy won't reinstate fired captain | Dems probe use of federal officers in DC | Air Force appoints woman as top noncommissioned officer

Overnight Defense: Navy won't reinstate fired captain | Dems probe use of federal officers in DC | Air Force appoints woman as top noncommissioned officer
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Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: The Navy will not reinstate the fired commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier following an investigation of leadership’s handling of a coronavirus outbreak onboard in March.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said on Friday that the service will uphold its firing of Capt. Brett Crozier, who was removed from his post after a letter he wrote pleading for help with the outbreak leaked to the media.

“He will not be reassigned nor will he be eligible for future command,” Gilday told reporters at the Pentagon.

The Navy will also place a hold on the promotion of Rear Adm. Stu Baker, the one-star commander of Carrier Strike Group 9 and the senior officer onboard the Roosevelt at the time of the COVID-19 outbreak, Gilday said.

Both men will be able to remain in the Navy though it’s likely the saga will put an end to their careers.

Changing face: The Navy’s decision to stand by Crozier’s firing is an about face from April, when a preliminary investigation recommended that the captain be reinstated.

A wider investigation, started in April after the preliminary probe, then led Gilday to conclude that “Capt. Crozier and Adm. Baker fell well short of what we expect of those in command.”

“Had I known then what I know today, I would have not made that recommendation to reinstate Capt. Crozier,” Gilday said. “Moreover, if Capt. Crozier were still in command today, I would be relieving him.”

Top Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement later on Thursday that Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite briefed Defense Secretary Mark Esper on the finished investigation, which he believes “to have been thorough and fair and supports the Navy’s decisions based on their findings.”

Months of choppy water: The wrapped investigation marks the end of a contentious few months in the Navy, which came under fire for its handling of the pandemic after an outbreak aboard the Roosevelt forced the aircraft carrier to dock in Guam.

Crozier prior to the ship docking wrote a letter to Navy leadership, leaked in the media, in which he warned of dire consequences if most of the crew on board the Roosevelt wasn’t evacuated.

“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier wrote. “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.”

Crozier was then swiftly fired by then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who argued that while Crozier may not have been wrong to write the letter, he sent a copy to too many people, failing to ensure it wasn’t leaked to the media.

Video later emerged on social media of Crozier getting a hero’s sendoff from his crew, with hundreds gathered on the ship to applaud and cheer his name.

Modly responded to the incident by traveling to Guam to give a speech aboard the Roosevelt where he called Crozier “stupid” or “naïve,” prompting Modly to later resign and apologize.

The Roosevelt would remain in Guam for two months and more than 1,000 sailors would be diagnosed with COVID-19. One sailor died from the virus.

The findings: In the wider investigation, completed by Adm. Robert Burke, the Navy backs Crozier’s swift departure, saying that the captain did not quickly or forcefully enough “execute the best possible and available plan,” to protect sailors from the illness.

“When faced with barriers ... Capt. Crozier waited for others to act rather than doing what we expect of our commanding officers – to take immediate and appropriate action and to drive outcomes,” the report states.

The probe also found that Crozier was not solely responsible for the ship's slow response to the quickly spreading virus, as Baker also did not take necessary steps to fix the issue.

Gilday stressed that Crozier was not let go due to the leaked email, as the captain did not intend such an outcome, rather, the email was “unnecessary,” as actions were already underway to dock in Guam and remove sailors at the time the message was sent.

House launches its own probe: The House Armed Services Committee will conduct its own investigation into the coronavirus outbreak aboard the Roosevelt, Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds Democrats push to limit transfer of military-grade gear to police 40 groups call on House panel to investigate Pentagon's use of coronavirus funds MORE’s (D-Wash.) said Friday.

“The department’s civilian leadership portrayed Capt. Crozier’s decision-making aboard the Roosevelt as the critical weakness in the Navy’s response, but the truth is that civilian leadership was also to blame,” Smith said in a statement.

“In order to better understand the full range of mistakes that were made throughout the entire chain of command, the House Armed Services Committee has launched an investigation into the COVID-19 outbreak aboard the Roosevelt,” he added.

 

DEMS SEEK PROBE INTO USE OF FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT DURING DC PROTESTS: Senate Democrats are requesting a government watchdog office investigate the use of federal law enforcement during protests in Washington, D.C., sparked by the police killing of George Floyd late last month in Minneapolis.

Fourteen Democrats sent a letter, spearheaded by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), requesting an investigation into "the use of Federal law enforcement, National Guard, and military personnel" in response to the protests. 

"The use of force against Americans on June 1 at Lafayette Square was abhorrent and shocking. This event alone provides substantial reason to question whether the Administration’s response to the demonstrations was organized, accountable, and consistent with applicable laws and the Constitution," the Democratic senators wrote.

The background: The Trump administration sparked fierce backlash and days of controversy, including from GOP lawmakers, after it forcibly removed protesters from an area near the White House shortly before President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick MORE and other administration officials walked through. 

The Democratic senators also wrote that Trump's remarks to governors that he had put Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley “in charge" and that they should "dominate" the streets "only add to our grave concerns."

Who wants the inquiry: In addition to Durbin, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Christopher Coons (Del.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), as well as independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), signed the letter.

What they want investigated: The senators are asking for the GAO to investigate who was in charge of the law enforcement response in D.C., including specific roles that federal departments and agencies played; who specifically ordered Lafayette Square to be cleared shortly before Trump walked to St. John’s Episcopal Church; and who ordered "chemical irritants" to be used and who ordered law enforcement or military police to "deliberately obscure badges and insignia or refuse to publicly represent their agency affiliation, and for what purpose?"

Armed officers not wearing identifiers were spotted near the White House during the protests earlier this month, sparking demands from lawmakers for details from the administration on what agencies had been deployed to D.C. A Justice Department spokeswoman told CBS News earlier this month that federal law enforcement under the department's jurisdiction, including the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals, Bureau of Prisons and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were deployed. 

The Democratic senators also want to know the rules each agency involved had on the use of force and if the Pentagon's actions were "consistent with laws allowing the DoD to support, but not supplant, civil authorities."  

 

AIR FORCE NAMES MILITARY’S FIRST FEMALE TOP ENLISTED MEMBER: The Air Force has appointed a woman to be its top noncommissioned officer for the first time in U.S. military history, the service said Friday.

Chief Master Sgt. JoAnne Bass will become the 19th chief master sergeant of the Air Force, making her the first female senior enlisted leader of any U.S. military service, the Air Force said in a news release.

“I’m honored and humbled to be selected as the 19th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, and follow in the footsteps of some of the best leaders our Air Force has ever known,” Bass said in a statement. “The history of the moment isn’t lost on me; I’m just ready to get after it. And I’m extremely grateful for and proud of my family and friends who helped me along the way.”

Another first: Bass’s appointment gives the Air Force two firsts this year. The Air Force will also have the military’s first black service chief when Gen. Charles “C.Q.” Brown is sworn in as chief of staff in August.

The milestones come as the military grapples with racial issues amid nationwide protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Brown and Bass “will be responsible for addressing racial disparity in the Air Force,” the service said in its news release.

More on Bass: Bass currently serves as the command chief master sergeant of the Second Air Force at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.

Her career, which started in 1993 with a posting at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina, has also included time at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, as the command chief master sergeant for the 17th Training Wing at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas and as chief of Air Force Enlisted Developmental Education at the Pentagon.

As Air Force chief master sergeant, Bass will become the public face of enlisted airmen and the personal adviser to Brown and Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett on issues related to the welfare, readiness and morale of enlisted personnel.

Bass will succeed Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth Wright, who tweeted that Brown “knocked it out of the park” by selecting Bass.

 

ICYMI

– The Hill: Former defense analyst sentenced to 30 months in leak case

– The Hill: Pompeo slams Bolton account as spreading 'lies,' 'fully-spun half-truths' and 'falsehoods'

– The Hill: Watchdog report finds Border Patrol was unprepared for 2019 migrant surge

– Military Times: The military’s rate of new coronavirus cases doubled this week

– Reuters: Europe tells U.S.: we won't back unilateral Iran sanctions snapback