WASHINGTON, DC – After the U.S. Navy announced it will relieve Captain Brett Crozier, commander of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), who wrote a letter to Navy leadership asking for stronger measures to control a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak onboard, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement:

Acting Secretary Modly called me and indicated this was a difficult decision, but one he and the Navy chain of command believes is necessary.  I stressed to him that the health and safety of our sailors is paramount and that naval leadership must make it absolutely clear the decision to relieve Captain Crozier is in no way interpreted as inhibiting any commanding officer from taking necessary steps, through their chain of command, to protect fellow sailors and Marines.

“The first obligation of any commander is to protect those under their command.  The Armed Services Committee’s role is to provide meaningful oversight and that is something we are aggressively doing.

“This incident raises critical questions about the Navy’s strategy to combat COVID-19 within the ranks and onboard ships and submarines.  Should the Navy be doing more?  What adjustments are they making?  The COVID-19 pandemic is urgent and evolving and it is incumbent upon the civilian and uniformed leadership to provide clear guidance not just to the committee, but to our forces and the American taxpayers.

“We will continue monitoring this case and the situation involving the USS Roosevelt and ensuring that everyone up and down the chain of command, including civilian leadership, is accountable and focused on protecting our troops and our country.”