National security at heart of USS Theodore Roosevelt probe
Capt. Brett Crozier should be reinstated to his command of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, the Navy’s top brass have said.
His removal in the first place raises questions about what led to his removal — and whether the military did an acceptable job of protecting service men and women in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Crozier’s offense several weeks ago was to send emails to several Navy officers, warning that a COVID-19 outbreak was spreading through his ship. The captain was seeking permission to take the Roosevelt to a port where sailors could be quarantined and treated on shore. Later, Crozier said he took the action after his immediate superior failed to act.
But the email went public – no one seems to know exactly how — and that prompted the Navy to remove Crozier. His crew, as demonstrated in a video showing hundreds of them chanting in support, seems to back their captain.
It turns out he had good reason for concern. COVID-19 swept through the Roosevelt. As of Friday, 856 of the ship’s crew of nearly 5,000 had tested positive for the disease. One had died, and about 4,200 were quarantined on Guam.
But for various reasons, the Navy had some justification in removing Crozier. One concern is the effect on national security of revealing that an aircraft carrier has been virtually disabled.
Now, perhaps partly because President Donald Trump wondered publicly about removing the captain for “one bad day,” the Navy is reconsidering.
Clearly, Crozier had the welfare of his crew at heart when he committed the offense that led to his removal. Should his immediate superiors have been more quick to share his concern? Were sailors put at risk unnecessarily? That is being investigated now.
These, too, are national security factors. If Navy personnel worry their superiors are not adequately mindful of sailors’ health, morale will decline.
A thorough investigation is underway. If fault is found, the Navy must make corrections. The issue cannot be swept under the rug.