Uncertainty surrounds Navy leadership’s future after latest dramatic resignation

Uncertainty surrounds Navy leadership’s future after latest dramatic resignation

After a controversy of his own making forced the resignation of the Navy’s acting secretary this week, Pentagon officials are lobbying lawmakers to confirm a new permanent secretary for the service as soon as possible.

But with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic slowing routine work on Capitol Hill, it’s unclear when that move could be completed.

Last fall, following the sudden forced resignation of then Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, President Donald Trump announced that he would tap retired Rear Adm. Kenneth Braithwaite (the current U.S. ambassador to Norway) for the top Navy post.

He also announced that Thomas Modly, then the Navy under secretary, would serve as the acting official until Braithwaite’s confirmation.

U.S. Ambassador Kenneth J. Braithwaite (left) and Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg (right) visited U.S. Marines and the Norwegian Homeguard at Værnes Air Station on Sept. 11, 2018. (Photo: Kristian Kapelrud/ Forsvaret)

Modly stayed in that role until Tuesday, when he resigned following intense criticism for his firing of the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt after his plea for help dealing with coronavirus prevention went public. Modly called Capt. Brett Crozier “too stupid or too naive” to lead the aircraft carrier.

The resignation prompted a new round of concerns from lawmakers about leadership upheavals at the Pentagon, which in the last nine months has already seen a new Defense Secretary, Deputy Defense Secretary, Air Force Secretary and Army Secretary sworn in.

Politico reported on Thursday that Defense Secretary Mark Esper in recent days has pushed senators to speed up the confirmation of Braithwaite to help stabilize Navy leadership as soon as possible.

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