Curtain Falls on Acting Navy Secretary’s Show

Curtain Falls on Acting Navy Secretary’s Show

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Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly speaks at a Pentagon press briefing, Washington, D.C., April 2, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

WASHINGTON — There will be no curtain call for now-former Acting Secretary Thomas Modly. His Monday debut to a sold-out audience on the road 8,000 miles from the Broadway of Pentagon was a one-performance show.

After a searing series of critical reviews for his profanity-laced tongue lashing given to the crew of the COVID-19 wracked USS Theodore Roosevelt, Modly gave a letter of resignation to Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday

The defense secretary, who often responds to reporters’ questions by noting he “had not read” the issue at question, read this one.

He accepted Modly’s resignation during a one-on-one meeting Tuesday.

“He resigned on his own accord, putting the Navy and Sailors above self so that the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and the Navy as an institution, can move forward,” Esper said in a statement.

Army Undersecretary James McPherson was named the new Acting Navy Secretary. McPherson was confirmed to his Amy post on March 23. He served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the 1980s and is a retired rear admiral and was the former judge advocate general of the Navy.

Modly’s departure appears to end a blistering 24-hours after his Monday address to the Roosevelt crew was made public — remarks that including calling the fired commanding skipper, Capt. Brett Crozier, “naive” and stupid” and chastising the crew by reminding them to “do your jobs.”

For Act Two on Monday, Modly doubled down, issuing a statement saying he stood by “every word.” In Act Three on Monday he apologized, saying his salty remarks were reflective to his time as a Naval Academy graduate and former helicopter pilot and went back to his roots as a sailor in being very direct to the crew.

There are rarely Act Fours. Thus on Tuesday Modly offered a departure letter, saying that he “lost situational awareness” during his address to the Roosevelt crew.

“You are justified in being angry with me about that,” Modly wrote. “There is no excuse, but perhaps a glimpse of understanding, and hopefully empathy.”

He wrote that “when I walked on the quarterdeck of the TR I lost situational awareness and decided to speak with them as if I was their commander, or their shipmate, rather than their Secretary.”

And he continued his blame of the media for the problem.“I am deeply sorry for some of the words and for how they spread across the media landscape like a wildfire,” Modly wrote.

He urged sailors not to “be afraid” to bring up issues of concern to their immediate superiors, but noted that “there is a proper, courteous and respectful way to do this.”

Crozier had written a letter asking for help for the crew that was being bludgeoned by a spreading COVID-19. The letter was leaked to the media and he was removed from command for showing poor judgment and not going through a proper chain of command.

At least 230 sailors aboard the Roosevelt had tested positive for COVID-19 by Tuesday morning, up 57 cases in one day.

Modly’s departure letter was widely panned by Pentagon veterans.

“I don’t buy it for a second,” David Lapin, a former Pentagon spokesperson, wrote on Twitter. “He had how many hours on a plane to consider his actions and remarks?”

Meanwhile, the nominee to be Navy Secretary — Kenneth Braithwaite, the former ambassador to Norway — has been waiting for weeks for the Senate to act on his nomination.

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