A nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is not a democracy. No matter how good your intentions are. It’s well established Naval precedent that the captain does not take a single suggestion from the crew or let them in on things which should be kept to the high command. It establishes a precedent that injures discipline.
Using proper channel’s isn’t just a suggestion
The “scathing” letter Captain Brett Crozier wrote begging the Navy to take “stronger action to halt the spread” of coronavirus aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt was not the issue. A captain is expected to quickly and clearly tell his command about his situation as it changes. He’s even permitted to vent his frustrations, as long as he keeps it inside the official channels.
The problem is that he discussed details of his report widely enough for someone to illegally leak those details to the press, which is a blatant violation of national security. Following the chain of command isn’t just a suggestion.
Whoever spilled the beans to a reporter deserves to be treated as a traitor, especially during a declared national emergency, which is only a hair away from a biowar designation. Many believe we’re dealing with a bioweapon, even if it was released accidentally. Acting U.S. Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is especially steamed because the letter “leaked before even he could see it.”
Possible disciplinary action
According to Navy Secretary Modly, Captain Crozier was relieved of his command “while investigators consider whether he should face disciplinary action.” That will be decided after a deeper probe into the incident by the Pentagon’s independent Inspector General. According to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the Pentagon was right to relieve the Captain of command and he has full confidence in Modly and his decision.
If talking to his crew about the letter was the worst of his actions, he’ll keep his career. Everyone deserves a chance at “redemption,” Modly notes. “He’ll get reassigned, he’s not thrown out of the Navy.”
The crew calls him a hero
The crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt calls him a hero. Thousands of sailors sent him off the ship with thunderous applause. One sailor’s social media post declared, “And that’s how you send out one of the greatest captains you ever had.”
When President Donald Trump was asked if he thinks the captain is being disciplined for trying to save the lives of the sailors. Trump pushed back saying “I don’t agree with that at all. Not at all. Not even a little bit.” He’s absolutely right. This isn’t about the virus, it’s about shipboard discipline.
The crew does not run the ship, the Captain does. If he is unable to maintain proper discipline, then he is relieved of command. They make that very clear at the Naval Academy. As far back as 1921 it was firmly settled that the crew isn’t even entitled to a suggestion box.
Grounds for court-martial through history
Giving crew members access to high level secure information or allowing them to influence a decision of the vessel’s commanding officer have been grounds for court-martial throughout Naval history. In 1921, Navy Secretary Denby relieved Captain Clark Daniel Stearns from his command of the battleship Michigan for allowing “his crew to discuss with him disciplinary matters vested only in the ship’s commanding officer.” Stearns’ crime was very similar to what’s happening now.
In an attempt to “improve morale,” Stearns formed a “ship morale committee.” Four petty officers and ten enlisted men were assigned to “investigate” disciplinary cases and report their findings to the Captain. They were also supposed to pass along any suggestions “tending to increase the efficiency of the ship or the naval service.” Sounds reasonable, right? Not to the Navy. Both of those are serious violations. Another captain was relieved for “allowing his crew to vote on what navy yard should be the home port of the vessel.”
Denby’s predecessor, Secretary Daniels, approved the program. Approving it was a huge mistake which the new administration quickly corrected. “While intended to improve morale of the enlisted personnel, approval by the department of the course would establish a precedent that might injure discipline even to the point of setting up ‘Soviet rule.'”
A warship is not a commune
A warship is not a commune, the Secretary was saying a century ago. It’s definitely not a “Democracy” either, even in these socialist progressive times.
When Harding came in, “admirals who had opposed” various attempts to “democratize” the Navy, “saw Stearns’ actions as a move which could subvert naval authority by implementing organizations similar to labor unions, claiming it resembled a ‘Soviet spirit [which] had crept into the Navy,'” Wikipedia relates.
“The maintenance of discipline is vested by statute solely in the commanding officer of ships.” Denby told the press. “It is contrary to tradition and the established custom of all naval services to give the crews disciplinary authority direct or advisory to any extent. Not even a suggestion box.
In this case, the captain took his crew into confidence by sharing information with them which should have been totally secure communications with his higher command. He was attempting to boost morale by showing them he shared their frustration, by telling them exactly what he vented to the brass. He meant well, but went too far. Somebody on that ship provided vital readiness details, along with reports of confusion and bad morale to the press. Our enemies are dissecting every word for potential use against us in a future war.