Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned following a controversy regarding his firing of the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt due to his handling of a coronavirus outbreak on the ship, according to multiple reports.
Modly reportedly submitted his resignation letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday, although a Politico report cited a source as saying that Modly was not pressured to resign. Esper tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he accepted the resignation, and had appointed current Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson to serve as acting Secretary of the Navy.
Modly faced public criticism last week after he fired Capt. Brett Crozier, the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). Crozier was accused of sending a memo pleading for help to multiple Navy officials outside the chain of command after dozens of sailors came down with COVID-19. The memo was eventually leaked to the press.
Modly received further criticism after a transcript of his comments over the public address system of the Roosevelt following Crozier’s firing became public — specifically, that he told the ship’s crew that Crozier was “stupid” and “naive.” He reportedly apologized for his remarks Monday night.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday has launched an investigation into the situation on the Roosevelt. “Any further action regarding the former commanding officer, Captain Crozier, will wait until that investigation is completed,” Esper said in a letter.
This morning I accepted Secretary Modly’s resignation. With the approval of the President, I am appointing current Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson as acting Secretary of the Navy. pic.twitter.com/FvfgOwuXw4
— @EsperDoD (@EsperDoD) April 7, 2020
The Roosevelt is currently moored off the coast of Guam. Most of the thousands of crew aboard the ship have been evacuated to get the COVID-19 outbreak under control. Only a skeleton crew of a few hundred sailors remain on the ship to maintain the nuclear reactor and other critical systems.
Crozier has since tested posted for COVID-19 himself. He began showing symptoms after being removed from the ship on Thursday, according to a New York Times report.