Navy launches broader investigation into virus-stricken aircraft carrier

The Navy announced Wednesday that it is launching a broader inquiry into the circumstances surrounding...

Posted: Apr 29, 2020 8:37 AM
Updated: Apr 29, 2020 6:30 PM

The Navy announced Wednesday that it is launching a broader inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, effectively delaying its recommendation that the ship's commanding officer be reinstated.

The announcement comes after Secretary of Defense Mark Esper previously declined to immediately endorse the Navy's original investigation into the issue which included a recommendation to reinstate Capt. Brett Crozier.

'After carefully reviewing the preliminary inquiry into the events surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, provided me with his recommendations. Following our discussion, I have unanswered questions that the preliminary inquiry has identified and that can only be answered by a deeper review,' acting Navy Secretary James E. McPherson said in a statement.

'Therefore, I am directing Adm. Gilday to conduct a follow-on command investigation. This investigation will build on the good work of the initial inquiry to provide a more fulsome understanding of the sequence of events, actions, and decisions of the chain of command surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt,' he added.

Earlier Wednesday, two US defense officials and an official briefed on the matter told CNN that the announcement was expected.

The new investigation is expected to be led by the Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Robert Burke who will have until May 27 to complete it, according to a Navy official. Burke will have the opportunity to ask for an extension if needed.

Once complete the results of the investigation will be shared with the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday. If he signs off it will be sent to the acting Navy Secretary to be presented to Esper.

Esper so far has not acted on the Navy's initial recommendation to restore Crozier to that position despite saying previously that he has 'an open mind' on whether the Navy should reinstate the fired commanding officer. And Wednesday's announcement of a broader investigation into the outbreak aboard the Roosevelt has only added to the uncertainty surrounding Crozier's future.

President Donald Trump would not say Wednesday whether he'd like to see Crozier return to his job.

'I don't know him. I think he's a very, very good man who had a very bad day, and then he wanted to be Ernest Hemingway. He starts writing long memos --you can't do that when you're the captain of a ship,' the President said when asked if he'd like to see Crozier return to his post.

'With that being said, as I said, he had a bad day. We all have bad days,' he added.

Rep. Adam Smith, Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, issued a forceful statement calling on Pentagon leaders to reinstate Crozier, making clear he believed there was 'no substantive reason' to remove the Navy captain.

'It is the job of our leaders at the Pentagon to support our national security, not suck up to the President. Yes, these individuals serve at the pleasure of the President, and they must be mindful of that, but in this Administration it appears you must become a sycophant in order to keep your job,' the Washington Democrat said.

'The President's need for his subordinates to constantly inflate his ego undermines competence throughout this administration. I do not want the Department of Defense to lose competence and simply become another organization whose job it is to pump up the President's ego,' Smith added.

Meanwhile, sailors from the Roosevelt began returning to the aircraft carrier Wednesday for the first time since they were moved ashore because of Covid-19, the Navy announced in a statement.

As of Tuesday, the ship had 940 active coronavirus cases, compared with 955 on Monday, reflecting an increase in the number of sailors who have recovered.

The handing of the outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier which led to the firing of Crozier, the ship's commanding officer, and the resignation of the acting Navy Secretary, has been the subject of an initial Navy investigation.

US officials told CNN that senior Navy officials had recommended Friday that Crozier be reinstated but Esper was not prepared to immediately endorse that recommendation.

Two defense officials told CNN that the Navy had expected Esper to endorse the recommendation last Friday.

A Pentagon spokesman said Friday that Esper 'intends to thoroughly review the report and will meet again with Navy leadership to discuss next steps.'

Crozier was fired earlier this month for what the then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said was poor judgment by too widely disseminating a warning among Navy officials about the spread of the virus aboard his vessel, a warning that eventually made its way into the press.

While Modly publicly accused Crozier of sending his letter of warning to 20 to 30 people, the email to which the letter was attached shows that Crozier sent it to 10 people including his direct superior, according to a copy of the email obtained by The Washington Post.

'I believe if there is ever a time to ask for help it is now regardless of the impact on my career,' Crozier wrote in his email, the contents of which a US official directly familiar with the message confirmed to CNN.

Modly resigned days later over his handling of the incident, actions which included a $240,000 trip to Guam where he slammed Crozier and admonished sailors for giving Crozier a rousing send off in public remarks to the crew.

Following his ouster Crozier was initially reassigned to the headquarters of the Naval Air Forces Pacific command in San Diego but has remained in Guam where he is completing a mandatory quarantine period.

After he was fired Crozier was replaced as commanding officer of the aircraft carrier by the ship's former captain, Rear Admiral select Carlos Sardiello.

The Roosevelt is not the only ship facing an outbreak of the virus. A senior Navy official told CNN last week that there were currently coronavirus cases on 26 US Navy warships, and another 14 had been hit by the virus but the crew members impacted have recovered.

The USS Kidd, a Navy destroyer, has been hit particularly hard.

The number of coronavirus cases among the USS Kidd's crew has reached 78, nearly 25 percent of the ship's complement, two Navy officials told CNN Wednesday. The ship is now in port in San Diego and sailors are in the process of being isolated and quarantined on base.

This story has been updated with a statement from the Navy and additional background.

Huntsville/Redstone
Partly Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 44°
Muscle Shoals
Partly Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 42°
Huntsville/Madison
Partly Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 39°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 39°
Fort Payne
Mostly Cloudy
39° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 39°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 424028

Reported Deaths: 6121
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson62258921
Mobile30381549
Madison27160186
Tuscaloosa20779267
Montgomery19049305
Shelby18572114
Baldwin16346182
Lee12515101
Morgan12260113
Etowah11757168
Calhoun11161200
Marshall10199107
Houston8630148
Cullman8036105
Limestone802874
Elmore7849101
DeKalb768897
Lauderdale760083
St. Clair7555120
Talladega6180108
Walker5903174
Jackson581341
Colbert533573
Blount530883
Autauga519855
Coffee443956
Dale398581
Franklin367548
Chilton337665
Russell331710
Covington327768
Escambia319342
Dallas303396
Chambers284269
Clarke282133
Tallapoosa2617107
Pike249429
Marion246250
Lawrence244247
Winston227335
Bibb216247
Geneva202535
Marengo199729
Pickens197031
Hale176442
Barbour173036
Butler170258
Fayette169026
Cherokee160530
Henry154421
Monroe145617
Randolph140735
Washington137726
Clay126745
Crenshaw119544
Lamar118219
Cleburne117723
Macon115035
Lowndes110735
Wilcox103121
Bullock99128
Perry97719
Conecuh94420
Sumter89126
Greene76123
Coosa60515
Choctaw51524
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 687751

Reported Deaths: 8430
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby765191128
Davidson70950665
Knox38829400
Hamilton34687327
Rutherford33228285
Unassigned22839126
Williamson21449140
Sumner18262232
Out of TN1618380
Montgomery14450149
Wilson14449157
Sullivan12606211
Blount11914125
Washington11911191
Maury10962123
Bradley1079191
Sevier10495108
Putnam9952136
Madison9131179
Robertson764585
Hamblen6990109
Anderson6792103
Greene6598108
Tipton621065
Gibson5639111
Coffee562882
Cumberland540072
Dickson536378
Bedford532589
Roane521279
Carter5109112
Lawrence508969
McMinn508573
Warren498753
Loudon495550
Jefferson477975
Dyer474982
Monroe457162
Hawkins446268
Franklin412161
Obion399679
Fayette397851
Rhea382456
Lincoln379444
Marshall345436
Cocke343856
Weakley339948
Cheatham336230
Henderson333057
Campbell324540
Giles321772
White311343
Carroll310459
Hardeman309452
Hardin298147
Lauderdale293731
Macon288850
Wayne261319
Henry260858
Overton253843
DeKalb242341
Haywood239845
McNairy238642
Smith231327
Trousdale228814
Marion228431
Scott225431
Hickman223534
Fentress212831
Claiborne212729
Grainger209035
Johnson201832
Morgan189015
Crockett180738
Bledsoe174210
Chester173837
Unicoi167043
Cannon157719
Lake155519
Decatur147326
Polk143617
Union139422
Grundy139321
Sequatchie137118
Humphreys132817
Benton132135
Lewis127520
Meigs114416
Stewart105520
Jackson104021
Perry94725
Clay93926
Houston93922
Moore8009
Pickett67919
Van Buren6607
Hancock4056

Community Events