April 13, 2020

How Donald Trump Ruined the Navy

By Dr. Jason Dempsey

No communications firm, pressed to design a case study on public-relations disasters, could likely top the Navy’s recent bungling of a coronavirus epidemic on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the firing of the aircraft carrier’s outspoken commander, Captain Brett Crozier. Crozier gained fame for his three-and-a-half-page memo pleading for the service to evacuate its crew from the ship, where safe isolation of the crew was impossible. His civilian boss, then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, gained notoriety for relieving Crozier of command, making an ill-advised quarter-million-dollar trip to board the Roosevelt dockside in Guam, trashing Crozier to his crew as “too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer,” and ultimately resigning his own post amid the backlash.

As the number of infected sailors among the Roosevelt’s crew rose this weekend past 550, a majority of the blame for the saga’s most ridiculous moments continues to fall on Modly. But this crisis was ultimately not of his own making. He merely brought to light the deepening dysfunction within the Department of Defense brought about by collapsing norms of civil-military relations.

Read the full article in The New Republic.

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