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Monday, December 09, 2019

Acting Navy Secretary Modly Quits Trump’s Chaotic Pentagon


Donald Trump's acting Navy secretary resigned on Tuesday after calling a recently ousted captain "stupid" for seeking help for his crew.

It marks the latest departure in Trump's revolving door Pentagon.

Outgoing Navy Secretary Thomas Modly apologized Monday after delivering a profanity-filled speech on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. In his comments a day earlier, he had defended firing the aircraft carrier's commanding officer, Capt. Brett Crozier, over Crozier's decision to send a memo asking for evacuation for his COVID-19-stricken crew.

The memo was later published in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Modly subsequently called the captain "too naive or too stupid" for the job in a poorly received speech to the sailors on the carrier, who had cheered Crozier as he departed the ship.

Even Trump called Modly's attack "rough."

Modly had taken the secretary position on an "acting" basis after Trump's previous naval secretary was forced out in a different controversy. Last November, Secretary Richard Spencer was forced to resign after Trump pardoned three service members against the wishes of military leadership.

"Unfortunately, it has become apparent that in this respect, I no longer share the same understanding with the Commander in Chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline," Spencer wrote in his resignation letter. "I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Trump's first choice for the job was Philip Bilden, a private equity official. After Trump initially nominated him, Bilden withdrew from consideration in February 2017, citing conflict of interest rules.

"After an extensive review process, I have determined that I will not be able to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics requirements without undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family's private financial interests," he explained at the time.

Trump has also seen significant turnover in other Defense Department positions.

His original Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, served two years before falling out with Trump over the Syrian troop withdrawal. Patrick Shanahan, Mark Esper, and Spencer then took turns as acting secretary until Esper was confirmed in the position last July.

Trump also had two Army secretary nominees withdraw before confirmation and has used acting Secretary Robert Speer, Ryan McCarthy, and Esper in that position at various points.

Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson will take over for Modly in acting capacity for the time being, Foreign Policy reported on Tuesday afternoon.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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