In a stunning reversal, the Navy has upheld the firing of the aircraft carrier captain who urged faster action to protect his crew from a coronavirus outbreak.
The Navy also extended the blame for the ship's pandemic crisis, delaying the promotion of the one-star admiral who was also onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt - concluding that both men made serious errors in judgment.
The spread of the coronavirus aboard the carrier while on deployment in the Pacific in March exploded into one of the biggest military leadership crises of recent years. More than 1,000 members of the crew eventually became infected, and one sailor died. The ship was sidelined for weeks at Guam but recently returned to duty.
The decision by Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, to hold both Capt. Brett Crozier and his boss, Rear Adm. Stuart Baker, accountable is a confirmation of concerns expressed by top Pentagon officials who demanded a deeper investigation last month when the initial probe recommended Crozier's reinstatement as the ship's captain.
Gilday’s recommendations cap a drama that has engulfed the Navy for nearly three months, sidelining the carrier for 10 weeks in Guam, and setting off a dramatic series of events that led to Crozier’s dismissal, the abrupt resignation of the acting Navy secretary who fired him, and the push for a broader review of the Pacific fleet’s top commanders and how they handled the virus outbreak.
Based on the findings, Crozier and Baker would be able to remain in the Navy and move on to other jobs at their current rank, but the admonishments are likely career-enders for both men. Crozier's firing upset the carrier's crew, and he received an ovation as he walked off the ship.
The investigation, done by Adm. Robert Burke and endorsed Friday by Gilday, defends the abrupt turnaround on Crozier saying that the more detailed probe uncovered poor decisions he made that failed to stem the outbreak or properly communicate the escalating crisis to senior commanders. It also concludes that the ship’s slow response to the virus was not just his fault, and that Baker also failed to take decisive actions to address the problem.