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Modly Has Resigned

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Sarah Villegas)

The many demands for the acting Secretary of the Navy’s resignation appear to have worked. Multipleoutlets are reporting that Modly has submitted his resignation to Defense Secretary Esper. Jack Detsch reports:

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly offered his resignation to Defense Secretary Mark Esper in a meeting on Tuesday, a source familiar with the matter told Foreign Policy, after the Pentagon chief ordered the Navy’s embattled top civilian to apologize for a profanity-laced speech slamming the fired captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

It was not immediately clear if Esper accepted the offer, first reported by Politico, or if Modly was asked for his resignation.

Resigning was the only way that Modly could avoid doing more damage than he had already done to the Navy and the crew of the carrier, and it is good that he offered his resignation right away. The Navy was being harmed by his poor leadership, and it will be much better off without him in this role. It would be extremely foolish for Esper to refuse to accept the resignation under the circumstances. It is remarkable how rapidly the situation on the carrier led to the scandal that has now forced out another Secretary of the Navy. It was just eight days ago that the captain’s letter became public, and in that short time Modly wrecked Crozier’s career and torpedoed himself in the process. In sharp contrast to the man that Modly replaced when he took over as acting Secretary, he will be leaving his position in disgrace and failure.

We should remember that this is something that Modly brought on himself by insisting on Crozier’s immediate removal over the objections of senior naval officers and then going out of his way to trash Crozier and his crew in a bizarre rant yesterday. Modly initially defended his outrageous behavior, and he even fired off an insulting rejoinder to Theodore Roosevelt’s great-grandson, but then deleted the response and apologized for his speech under duress after the backlash grew more severe. Modly put on quite the one-week clinic in how not to lead.

A Washington Post report from yesterday reminds us just how absurd the decision to remove Crozier was:

On March 30, Crozier sent his letter to Navy officials. While Modly described it at one point as a “blast-out email” to 20 to 30 people, a person close to Crozier said many of the people who received it were on the captain’s staff. Notably, Baker and at least one other admiral were not on it.

“The characterization that he did not go through the chain is not accurate,” the friend of Crozier’s said. “He did not route it to them for distribution because they were not buying in on the plan.”

Relieving someone from command because he copied his own staff on a letter about conditions on the ship in the middle of a pandemic was ridiculous overkill, and it should never have happened. It is good that Modly won’t be around to mess anything else up, but the crew of the Theodore Roosevelt has needlessly lost a fine commander. Ideally, Modly’s resignation would clear the way for reversing the terrible decision he made to remove Crozier last week, but that is probably not going to happen. Proving how right he was to worry about the spread of the virus on the ship, Capt. Crozier has since tested positive for COVID-19 and is in isolation. We wish him and all of the other infected members of the crew a swift and full recovery.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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