Van Hollen, Blumenthal Lead Call for Investigation into Navy’s COVID-19 Outbreak & Decision to Relieve Capt. Crozier of Command
“Given the extraordinary circumstances under which these events took place, we believe a closer examination by a neutral third party is warranted.”
U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) led a group of 17 Senators calling on the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General to conduct a formal investigation into troubling reports about the USS Theodore Roosevelt COVID-19 outbreak and decision to relieve Capt. Brett Crozier of his command of the ship.
“Given the concerns for the health and safety of the sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, in addition to the potential for future COVID-19 outbreaks on other ships and submarines, we urge you to investigate the Navy’s response to this outbreak to evaluate whether the Navy is implementing all appropriate precautionary measures and best-practices to protect the safety of our fleet,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Acting Inspector General Glenn Fine.
Earlier this week, Capt. Crozier wrote a letter expressing serious concern with the Navy’s response to a COVID-19 outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, warning that “if we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset – our sailors.” Days later, he was relieved of his command.
The Senators expressed particular concern over the Navy’s “stark reversal” regarding Capt. Crozier’s leadership and the decision’s impact on sailors’ morale and readiness, especially “given the remarkable show of support for CAPT Crozier by members of his crew.”
The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).
The full text of the letter is available here and below.
Dear Acting Inspector General Fine:
We write to request that your office immediately conduct a formal investigation into the Navy’s response to reports of the outbreak of COVID-19 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the decision to relieve CAPT Brett Crozier of his command. It is essential that your office conduct a comprehensive investigation to avoid any potential conflicts of interest within the Navy chain of command, and we encourage you to evaluate all relevant matters associated with the dismissal and the outbreak on the ship.
CAPT Crozier’s memo to Navy leadership indicated that the crew was unable to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols or NAVADMIN guidance. Additionally, CAPT Crozier emphasized an inappropriate focus on testing as well as inappropriate quarantine and isolation capability. Given the concerns for the health and safety of the sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, in addition to the potential for future COVID-19 outbreaks on other ships and submarines, we urge you to investigate the Navy’s response to this outbreak to evaluate whether the Navy is implementing all appropriate precautionary measures and best-practices to protect the safety of our fleet.
We are particularly alarmed by the stark reversal from the Navy regarding CAPT Crozier’s leadership during this crisis. One day before CAPT Crozier was relieved of command, the Acting Secretary of the Navy stated in reference to the Captain’s 30 March request for assistance that “the fact that he wrote the letter to his chain of command to express his concerns would absolutely not result in any kind of retaliation.” It is also difficult to understand how CAPT Crozier’s decision to copy “20 or 30 people” on an email to his chain of command necessarily constitutes a breach warranting relief of command. This reversal sends a mixed message to sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt and given the remarkable show of support for CAPT Crozier by members of his crew, we are additionally worried about the impact of this decision on morale and readiness.
While we understand and respect the importance of maintaining operational security, given the extraordinary circumstances under which these events took place, we believe a closer examination by a neutral third party is warranted. We are especially concerned about Navy readiness to support current and future deployments without all necessary precautionary measures and resources, such as for the USS Ronald Reagan and upcoming deployment of the USS Nimitz. Your conclusions and recommendations could be crucial in ensuring that the Navy and other services to respond appropriately to the COVID-19 threat and protect our servicemembers.
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