Good JOB Everybody! The U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Affair Becomes The U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Ethics Train Wreck

The last time we visited the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, things seemed ready to slip into relative calm. Yes, the captain has breached policy and navy protocol as well as the chain of commend, but he had received the necessary punishment that he had to know was coming. His gambit had worked, focusing sufficient media and public attention on ship’s plight to goad the Navy into acting with more compassion and dispatch, getting the Wuhan-infected sailors off the carrier and into treatment. The Acting Navy Secretary had made the proper, if unpopular call, and the President had backed him up. Yes, the mainstream media was stirring the pot and making it seem like the captain had been unfairly punished—didn’t the cheers of his crew prove that?—but the public is used to this dance by now: the “Whatever the President and  His Appointees Do Is Wrong Waltz.” Here was how the Times, the national “paper of record,’ described Captain Crozier’s firing yesterday, for example:

“Mr. Modly’s response last Thursday was to fire Captain Crozier, accusing him of circumventing the Navy’s traditional chain of command by copying more than 20 people on the emailed letter.”

Fake news. The use of the word “accuse” falsely suggest that there was any doubt in the matter. Crozer did circumvent the Navy’s  chain of command by copying more than 20 people on the emailed letter, ensuring that it would reach the public. This was a major breach of security and military procedure, a firing offense in every branch.

And of course it was deliberate.

But I digress. The inability of the Times and virtually every other  news source should be an assumption by now. That’s a different Ethics Train Wreck.

Then, for reasons only the gerbils running in the big wheel in his head could answer, Acting Secretary Modly flew to Guam where the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt was docked, and addressed the crew of the aircraft carrier unsung  the ship’s internal loudspeaker system. Accounts say that his statements were profane and defensive; one crew member described it as “whiny, upset, irritated, condescending.” In the process, Modly attacked the integrity of Captain Crozier, at one point saying  Cozier was “too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer” if he thought that letter wasn’t going to leak, or, in the a;alternative, “that he did this on purpose.” He attacked  Joe Biden, who has repeatedly criticized Crozier’s removal in his lucid moments. This was also wildly inappropriate.

After that astoundingly petty, unprofessional, unmilitary rant, Modly had to be fired, and he was, though he was allowed to resign. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper accepted Modly’s resignation the next day, as it was clear that he could not escape the uproar from inside and outside the Navy. “He resigned of his own accord, putting the Navy and the sailors above self so that the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, and the Navy as an institution, can move forward,” Esper said in a letter.

But there is more damage to come. On the cognitive dissonance scale—

…Modly just dropped to the bottom. Anything associated with hi, including the firing of Crozier, fell along with him. As the firing of Crozier falls, Crozier rises. Predictably, since he is addicted to mucking around with military discipline and can’t resist playing what he thinks is a winning hand, often doing flip-flops and back-flips to get one, President Trump is now describing Crozier’s defiant letter as him having a “bad day.” After the obligatory investigation, I’ll be surprised if Crozier’s firing isn’t reversed, thus permanently undermining Navy tradition and policy.

Good job, everybody.

14 thoughts on “Good JOB Everybody! The U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Affair Becomes The U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Ethics Train Wreck

  1. I don’t see the “having a bad day” comment as indicative of any further involvement from the White House. “A bad day” commanding a massive nuclear powered aircraft carrier could have drastic consequences, non?

  2. No, he won’t be reinstated. No admiral is going to want to have him anywhere near him. He broke the traditions of the USN in an unforgivable way. I didn’t realize the fool of a civilian flew to Guam and addressed the crew…YHGTBSM, I assumed he said it at a meeting or some such and it “leaked”.

  3. I had written a reply when this issue surfaced on Ethics Alarms previously and somehow managed to deep six it. But, a couple of things:
    Vitaeus zeroed in then on one key item – where was Admiral Baker in all of this? He is the Carrier Task Force Commander and Crozier’s immediate superior, yet, it seems, he was not aware of the letter until he actually received it. He is embarked on the Roosevelt, billeted close to Crozier, converses with him frequently, knows nearly as much as Crozier about the status of the ship. It is inconceivable to me that they would not have discussed this issue in some detail, to the point where Baker knew what Crozier was about to do in sending out the letter.

    But, if they did not have that conversation, if it truly was a surprise, Baker should have initiated the relief of Crozier himself, since that would have been a gross violation of the chain of command. Instead, it appears he was directed to relieve Crozier.

    Further, by releasing key information about the readiness status of the ship to the public, Crozier was playing free and loose with confidential information. True, we are not at war in the South Pacific, not exactly, anyway, but the Navy still is conducting vital missions in that area, including deterrence, protecting freedom of the seas, and countering China’s claims to territory. So Crozier’s actions can be considered ethical only by a stretch that ignores the responsibilities of command of a deployed Navy capital ship.

    Why Modly felt he had to personally address the crew of the Roosevelt is, as noted, a mystery. If he thought he would boost morale, he sure went about it the wrong way, and now he is eased out as he should have been. And, once again Trump is seen to have chosen poorly, only a few months after his previous Secretary of the Navy was ‘eased out’.

    • Great comment, Johnny. Regarding Trump’s hiring practices: the turnover in this administration makes me wonder how many stuffed shirts with good resumes there are hanging around D.C. at any given time. I just think even “the best and the brightest” are grossly over-rated on paper. Given a situation to screw up, it seems almost all of them jump at the chance. As you’ll recall, no drama Obama simply never fired anyone.

  4. As long as he never has a seagoing command again, I don’t care what job he does in the Navy.

    Trump is kidding himself, and he knows it. I suspect, when he examines all the facts (assuming he ever does), it will not affect Crozier in any substantive way. He will never command a ship again, not even a littoral ship or fast frigate.

    As to a shore command, I don’t really care if they make him the commander of Naval Nuclear Power School or some other educational or support command. In the end, the only command that matters in the Navy is one at sea. He should not be on the List, ever, and I am confident he will not be.

    Trump is just trying to make this go away. Crozier was never going to be thrown out of the Navy, he was simply relieved of his seagoing command for cause – it happens all the time, and only in cases of manifest negligence or breach of orders is an O-6 ever discharged from the Navy. He will be able to stay in until he gets passed over for the Admiralty 3 times (I think it is), and then he’ll have to retire.

    This is much ado over nothing, but it is a train wreck that is completely on Crozier, even if others trod upon their genitals in the aftermath.

  5. Unless they changed it, he had to do an abbreviated version of the Nuclear pipeline. Power School and Engineers exam, which means he ain’t stupid. That doesn’t equal common sense, as a former nuke, I am a living example of that.

    • Yep, that is very much still the same. Every commanding officer of a nuclear vessel has to complete U.S. Navy Nuclear Power School. He does not have to qualify as an engineer officer, however.

      Unless it has changed, you had to either be a zoomie (Naval aviator) or a nuclear engineer-pipeline officer to command an aircraft carrier. Zoomies had to attend NPS, and EO’s had to attend special aviation training.


    Acting Navy secretary Thomas Modly, in an extensive interview about the firing of the commander of a disease-threatened aircraft carrier, said he acted because he believed the captain was “panicking” under pressure — and wanted to make the move himself, before President Trump ordered the captain’s dismissal.

    “I didn’t want to get into a decision where the president would feel that he had to intervene because the Navy couldn’t be decisive,”

    Modly explained that his predecessor, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, “lost his job because the Navy Department got crossways with the president” in the Gallagher case. “I didn’t want that to happen again.” The acting secretary reiterated the point later in the conversation: “I put myself in the president’s shoes. I considered how the president felt like he needed to get involved in Navy decisions [in the Gallagher case and the Spencer firing]. I didn’t want that to happen again.”

    Modly said he “had no discussions with anyone at the White House prior to making the decision” to relieve Crozier. Referring to his boss, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, he said: “That is Secretary Esper’s job, not mine.” Navy sources had said Modly told a colleague that Trump “wants him [Crozier] fired,” and though Modly denied getting any direct message to that effect, he clearly understood that Trump was unhappy with the uproar surrounding the Roosevelt.
    Something that has been lost in the shuffle is that Captain Crozier would have had to resign his command anyway. Why? Because he has been infected. There is no way he could do his job without endangering his crew. A commander cannot socially isolate.

  7. Relatedly, my former Navy SF son said in regard to this issue the Captain did what was required to retain the confidence and fighting ability of his crew, backing their well-being and overall battle readiness against the bureaucratic chain-of-command. He also said the Captain’s relief was expected and appropriate by anyone who has served. In short, the captain knew he was sacrificing his command for what he believed was the wellness of his crew. He received what he needed to keep the Roosevelt battle ready, knowingly at the expense of his career

    If any of you have served or have seen how the crew is billeted, especially on a carrier, you would understand how a contagion could swiftly and completely debilitate the battle readiness of any Naval vessel.

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