April 6, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) and Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper calling for the firing of Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly following his comments to sailors aboard the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT and decision to relieve CAPT Brett Crozier of command. Last week, the Members called on the Department of Defense Inspector General to investigate whether Acting Secretary Modly acted inappropriately.

In the letter, the Members wrote:

Dear Secretary Esper:

Last week we requested the Department of Defense Inspector General to investigate Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly’s action of relieving Captain Brett Crozier of command. CAPT Crozier, who has now tested positive for COVID-19, had warned the Navy that the virus was spreading through the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT and requested immediate evacuation of the majority of the personnel. As veterans, we are appalled that Acting Secretary Modly then went to the aircraft carrier and told the sailors that CAPT Crozier was “too naive or too stupid to be a commanding officer.” As Members of Congress, we request that you fire Acting Secretary Modly because he is no longer fit to lead.

During this difficult time for our nation, we need steady, calm leadership. Acting Secretary Modly has shown exactly the opposite. His hastily fired CAPT Crozier before an investigation was started into all the facts and circumstances; he made inflammatory comments about a highly decorated commander; and he leveled the insults before the sailors that worked for CAPT Crozier at a time when CAPT Crozier is himself fighting COVID-19. Acting Secretary Modly has become more than just a distraction to the Administration and our military, he has shown he can no longer lead the best Navy in the world.

Furthermore, our civilian-controlled military is effective only if military personnel have confidence that civilian leaders have their best interests in mind and are acting based on principle. Acting Secretary Modly has lost that confidence. He purportedly relieved CAPT Crozier of command because the private letter trying to protect personnel from the spread of the virus was leaked. We note that Acting Secretary Modly’s private speech was also leaked. The same principle should apply and you must now relieve Acting Secretary Modly of his duties.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this critical matter.


Ted W. Lieu
Ruben Gallego