Smith Statement on Navy’s Completion of U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt COVID-19 Investigation

June 19, 2020 – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, today issued the following statement after the Navy concluded an additional investigation of the COVID-19 outbreak aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt:

“The severity of the COVID spread on the Roosevelt, coupled with the fact that it was the first major outbreak DoD faced, warranted thorough investigation. The findings in the Navy’s extended investigation makes it clear that the Navy did not respond the way they should have, or as quickly as they should have, to adequately address the outbreak.

“Everyone up and down the chain of command had a role to play in the inadequate response – including then-Acting Secretary of the Navy Modly. The Department’s civilian leadership portrayed Captain Crozier’s decision-making aboard the Roosevelt as the critical weakness in the Navy’s response, but the truth is that civilian leadership was also to blame.

“In order to better understand the full range of mistakes that were made throughout the entire chain of command, the House Armed Services Committee has launched an investigation into the COVID-19 outbreak aboard the Roosevelt.

“While the committee works on our own investigation, it is my hope that the Navy will learn from this series of mistakes. Modly’s incredibly poor decision to relieve Captain Crozier because of an email was only made worse by his equally poor decision to visit the ship and berate the commander after he left. Modly’s bad decision-making underscores the importance of sound civilian leadership at the Department.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. The Navy and DoD will continue to grapple with the challenges presented by the pandemic for months to come. Civilian leadership at the Department of the Defense is crucial to our national security, and as such they must be held accountable as we move forward.”

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