The Navy’s probe into the circumstances around a leaked letter from the former commander of USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) warning leaders his sailors were at risk from a COVID-19 outbreak is set to be completed soon, Navy officials told USNI News on Wednesday.
The investigation was announced in parallel to the removal of Capt. Brett Crozier from command of the carrier by former acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly.
“The inquiry remains in progress and is expected to be completed soon,” Cmdr. Nate Christensen told USNI News.
“It will take time for the report to be reviewed and endorsed by the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Gilday.”
Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Robert Burke was ordered to conduct a preliminary inquiry into that would, “consider command climate and circumstances surrounding the response, including communication throughout the administrative and operational chains of command,” Navy officials told USNI News last week. The probe was set to complete on April 6.
Questions remain as to why Crozier felt compelled to write the letter, which prompted the investigation.
For example, Crozier’s immediate superior Rear Adm. Stewart Baker “did not know about the letter before it was sent to him via email,” Modly told reporters last week when he announced Crozier’s removal from command. “It’s important to understand that the strike group commander, the CO’s immediate boss, is embarked on the Theodore Roosevelt with him, right down the passageway.”
Navy officials aren’t alone in wanting to understand the circumstances around Crozier’s letter and last month’s port visit of the carrier to Vietnam.
“It’s disturbing to me that there’s been so much turmoil at the top of the Department of the Navy over the last year. In this difficult time, the Navy needs leaders now more than ever who can provide continuity and steady, insightful leadership,” wrote Senate Armed Services Committee chair Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) in a Tuesday statement.
“I also look forward to learning more about the events that led us to where we are today – from who made the decision to dock the USS Theodore Roosevelt in Vietnam at the height of COVID-19 crisis there, to the support being given to unit commanding officers by Navy leadership, to what led the acting Secretary of the Navy to offer his resignation.”
Meanwhile, the carrier is in the midst of dealing with the outbreak since it’s been pier-side in Guam.
“As of today, 93 percent of the USS Theodore Roosevelt crew have been tested for COVID-19, with 286 positive cases so far and 2,588 negative results,” the Navy said in a Wednesday statement.
“2,329 sailors have moved ashore. As testing continues, the ship will keep enough sailors on board to sustain essential services and sanitize the ship in port. There have been zero hospitalizations.”