WASHINGTON, DC - WASHINGTON - Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is to step down after creating a furore which has had wide reverberations throughout the Navy, the U.S. armed forces and the country.
Modly, who it is believed was acting on the orders of the President, Donald Trump, fired the Commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, now docked in Guam.
Capt. Brett E. Crozier had written a letter requesting his near 5,000 sailors be evacuated from his ship which had at the time up to 80 cases of coronavirus recorded. The number has since widened to 286 following more testing.
The Pentagon, which had been slow in responding to the request was embarrassed when the letter became public. Rather than addressing the crisis on board the ship, Modly focused on the publicity about the letter, and the embarrassment it was causing the administration. He fired the commander, who was given a rousing farewell as he left the ship by sailors on board angered at his treatment. To try and quell the anger Modly flew to Guam and addressed the ship's crew and blasted Crozier saying he must have been stupid or naive, had shown poor judgement, and was not fit to be in command of the ship. This angered the crew even further, and the controversy escalated some more.
On Monday, when asked, Trump, who supported the sacking of the commander, said he thought Modly's statement was "a bit rough." Modly shortly after issued an apology to Crozier and his family. It was not enough, calls had mounted for him to step aside.
On Tuesday the controversy came to a head when Modly submitted a letter of resignation to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
"Today, Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper accepted the resignation of Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly and announced that he is appointing current Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson as Acting Secretary of the Navy," the U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement released on Tuesday.
Modly praised the Navy in his resignation letter.
"More than anything, I owe every member of the Navy and Marine Corps team a lifetime of gratitude for the opportunity to serve for them, and with them, once again. They are the reason why I will forever remain inspired by the call of service. They are the ones who lift our nation, heal our divides, and make this country the greatest in the history of the world," he wrote.
"That is why with a heavy heart, I hereby submit my resignation, effective immediately. The men and women of the Department of the Navy deserve a continuity of civilian leadership befitting our great Republic, and the decisive naval force that secures our way of life. I will be forever grateful for my opportunity, and the blessing, to be part of it," Modly said.
Esper was quick to accept the resignation. "I am appointing current Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson as acting Secretary of the Navy. Jim is a retired Admiral with a distinguished 26-year naval career, serving ashore, afloat, and overseas during his time in uniform. I know Jim McPherson well," the defense secretary said in a statement.
"He is a smart, capable, and professional leader who will restore confidence and stability in the Navy during these challenging times. Jim will serve as acting Secretary of the Navy until a permanent Navy Secretary is confirmed."