Home/Daniel Larison/After Crozier Comments, Navy Secretary Modly Must Resign

After Crozier Comments, Navy Secretary Modly Must Resign

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

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly just made things much worse for himself and the Navy by delivering an attack on Capt. Crozier in a speech to the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. It will come as no surprise that the contents of the speech have become public:

“It was a betrayal. And I can tell you one other thing: because he did that he put it in the public’s forum and it is now a big controversy in Washington, DC,” Modly said, according to a transcript of remarks Modly made to the crew, copies of which have been provided to CNN by multiple Navy officials.

There is a rough transcript of the speech here, and both Task & Purpose and The San Francisco Chronicle obtained an audio recording of the speech.

Modly’s speech was an attempt to justify his unpopular and outrageous decision to remove Crozier from command, and by giving such an inflammatory speech so soon after that decision he showed remarkably poor judgment. The “big controversy” that he complains about just became even bigger. Lecturing the crew about Crozier’s supposed “betrayal” is not going to persuade anyone, and it is bound to stir up even more discontent than there was before. It is deeply insulting to Crozier and his crew to cast the captain’s actions in such derogatory terms. Even if Modly genuinely believes Crozier to have been in the wrong, it is destructive and demoralizing to attack a well-respected officer this way. He was lashing out at the crew as much as Crozier because the crew gave the captain such a rousing sendoff. That’s unacceptable, and it proves that there needs to be someone else in charge of the Department of the Navy.

Modly’s original decision to relieve Crozier of command was a serious mistake, and this tone-deaf exercise in self-justification compounds the first error. Incredibly, Modly criticized Crozier for being either “too naive” or “stupid” for circulating his letter to maybe 20 people, and then he delivers a speech to a crew of thousands and somehow doesn’t think it was going to leak the minute after he finished. Whatever he hoped to achieve by berating the crew for their devotion to their captain, he has pretty much destroyed whatever credibility he might have still had with them.

The calls for Modly’s resignation began as soon as the speech became available:

It is worth remembering that Modly chose to remove Crozier over the objections of Crozier’s superior officers, including the chief of naval operations. He insisted on doing this despite their preference that they handle it themselves, and he owns the fallout from it. Modly has handled all of this about as badly as he could have. It is time for him to do the right thing and resign.

Update: There is enormous anger at Modly among lots of veterans because of this speech:

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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