Senior Navy officials have recommended to Defense Secretary Mark Esper that Capt. Brett Crozier, the commander who was fired after warning that the crew of the coronavirus-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt was in danger, be restored to command of the aircraft carrier.
“Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday has presented recommendations to the Acting Secretary of the Navy James McPherson. Secretary McPherson is continuing discussions with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. No final decisions have been made,” a Navy statement said.
The decision now rests with Esper, who received the recommendation verbally and will wait to make a decision until he reviews the written report, according to a statement from top Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.
“The Navy’s inquiry covered a complex timeline of communications between Naval officers, as well as response efforts spanning a dozen time zones and multiple commands,” said one senior defense official who was not authorized to speak on the record during an ongoing and sensitive inquiry. “Although many in the media are focused on one aspect of the initial inquiry, it is in fact about more than one person. The Secretary wants to ensure that the report is thorough and can stand up under the rightful scrutiny of Congress, the media, the families and the crew of the Theodore Roosevelt, and the American people.”
The recommendation represents yet another dramatic turn in the saga surrounding the Roosevelt. Crozier’s removal by then-Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly earlier this month sparked a tumultuous series of events that culminated in Modly’s resignation.
“[Esper]’s going into this with an open mind and he’s generally inclined to support Navy leadership and their positions,” Hoffman told reporters in a morning briefing, before the defense secretary had received the Navy’s recommendation.