"I don't know who leaked the letter to the media. That would be something that would violate the principles of good order and discipline, if he were responsible for that. But I don't know that,” acting US Navy Secretary Thomas Modly told reporters on Wednesday about the Monday letter from Capt. Brett Crozier.
"The fact that he wrote the letter up to his chain of command to express his concerns would absolutely not result in any type of retaliation," Modly further noted.
That letter was published Tuesday by the San Francisco Chronicle and addressed to Navy Personnel Command (NAVADMIN), which functions similarly to a human resources department in a private corporation.
“Request all available resources to find NAVADMIN and CDC [US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] compliant quarantine rooms for my entire crew as soon as possible,” Crozier wrote in the letter. “This will require a political solution, but it is the right thing to do. We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset - our sailors.”
Modly indicated Wednesday that he did not agree with Crozier’s conclusion that all but 10% of the ship’s crew could be removed for several weeks. The Roosevelt departed Da Nang, Vietnam, two weeks before its first cases of COVID-19 were detected last week, and soon after, it put into port on Guam and evacuated the positive cases to a military hospital on the island.
On Tuesday evening, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper rejected the notion of an evacuation at the present time, saying the situation was not “at that point” yet. A Nimitz-class carrier like the Theodore Roosevelt carries roughly 5,000 crew members, most of whom live in cramped berths, sleeping just inches from one another.
Modly changed the tune on Wednesday, however, when he announced that nearly 1,000 personnel had already been removed from the carrier and another 2,700 would be evacuated in the next several days.
“We cannot and will not remove all the sailors off the ship,” Modly said at a Pentagon briefing. “Our plan has always been to remove as much of the crew as we can while maintaining for the ship’s safety."
Modly indicated there were 93 positive cases on the ship and that 1,273 members of the crew had been tested.