WASHINGTON — The Navy will conduct a wider investigation of circumstances surrounding the spread of the coronavirus aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, a move that effectively delays a decision on whether to reinstate the ship’s captain.
The investigation was announced Wednesday by James E. McPherson, the acting Navy secretary, who said in a brief written statement that an initial inquiry was insufficient. “I have unanswered questions that the preliminary inquiry has identified and that can only be answered by a deeper review,” he said.
The decision comes several days after McPherson and Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, met with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to discuss the Navy’s recommendation that Capt. Brett Crozier be restored to command of the ship.
“I am directing Adm. Gilday to conduct a follow-on command investigation,” McPherson said. “This investigation will build on the good work of the initial inquiry to provide a more fulsome understanding of the sequence of events, actions, and decisions of the chain of command surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt.”
The wider investigation is intended to last no longer than 30 days, according to one defense official who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity to provide details before McPherson issued his statement.
More than 900 sailors from the Roosevelt have contracted the coronavirus; one has died.
The Navy inquiry on which it based its recommendation to restore Crozier to command was headed by the vice chief of naval operations, Adm. Robert Burke, and has not been made public. Esper had been expected to decide whether to endorse the recommendation and the report after he met last Friday with Gilday and McPherson.
President Donald Trump, who previously has intervened in Navy matters, has made no public comments on the Roosevelt issue since Gilday’s recommendation to reinstate Crozier became know last week.