The nation’s top military officer Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said Friday that the Navy had reason to believe that fired USS Theodore Roosevelt commander Captain Brett Crozier went outside his chain of command.
“[Acting Navy Secretary Thomas] Modly is the responsible, accountable official to the American people. And he had reason to believe that the captain operated outside the chain of command and he relieved him,” Milley told Fox News’s Outnumbered Overtime on Friday.
Milley said there is an ongoing investigation into what happened, but he trusted Modly and his judgment and would support him.
He added, “The secretary of the Navy is responsible to the American people for the good order and discipline of the Navy. And when he loses trust and confidence in a ship’s captain, then that’s it. It’s target down. And we’re moving on to the next, to the next task.”
Modly fired Crozier on Thursday, after a memo penned by Crozier surfaced in his hometown newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, on Sunday.
The memo urged Navy leaders to get nearly all the Roosevelt’s sailors off the ship amid a coronavirus outbreak and said living conditions on and off the ship were not in compliance with Centers for Disease Control and Navy guidance for social distancing and quarantining.
Modly said Crozier had cc’ed more than 20 people, including some outside the chain of command, over unsecured and unclassified systems, assuring the memo’s leak.
He also said Crozier did not speak to his direct superior, carrier strike group commander Rear Adm. Stuart Baker, about his concerns before sending the memo, despite Baker being on the carrier and living within feet of Crozier.
Modly said Crozier was not fired for expressing concerns, but the way he chose to do so.
He said he did not speak to anyone at the White House before making this decision, but that Defense Secretary Mark Esper supported his decision.
“The secretary of the Navy is responsible to the American people for the good order and discipline of the Navy,” Milley said. “And when he loses trust and confidence in a ship’s captain, then that’s it. It’s target down. And we’re moving on to the next to the next task.”
“When any time a secretary of the Navy, secretary of defense present United States or a senior Commission officer loses trust and confidence in a subordinate, then the subordinate goes,” he added.