Army Undersecretary James McPherson will be tapped to temporarily lead the Navy Department, Esper said. McPherson was confirmed to be the Army’s No. 2 on March 23, a little more than two weeks ago.
In his resignation letter, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO, Modly thanked Esper and President Donald Trump for their “confidence” in him.
“More than anything, I owe every member of the Navy and Marine Corps team a lifetime of gratitude for the opportunity to serve for them, and with them, once again,” Modly wrote in the brief letter, which was addressed to Esper. “The men and women of the Department of the Navy deserve a continuity of civilian leadership befitting our great Republic, and the decisive naval force that secures our way of life.”
Modly was more loquacious in a memo to the force, in which he acknowledged that he “lost situational awareness” during his address to the Roosevelt’s crew.
“You are justified in being angry with me about that,” Modly wrote in the memo, which was obtained by POLITICO. “There is no excuse, but perhaps a glimpse of understanding, and hopefully empathy.”
“I am deeply sorry for some of the words and for how they spread across the media landscape like a wildfire,” Modly continued.
Later in the four-page memo, Modly urged sailors not to “ be afraid” to bring up issues of concern to their immediate superiors, but noted that “there is a proper, courteous and respectful way to do this.”
Trump on Tuesday afternoon said he had no role in Modly’s resignation and created the former Navy leader with trying to move beyond the scandal.
“I don’t know him but I heard he’s a very good man,” Trump said of Modly. “The whole thing was very unfortunate.
“I had heard he [resigned] because he didn’t want to cause any disturbance for our country,” Trump added. “And I think in really many ways, that was a very unselfish thing for him to do.”
Trump also appeared to back down from his comments on Monday when he said he planned to get involved in the Navy’s decision to fire the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Brett Crozier.
“They’re going to just take it under regular Navy channels to see what they want to do,” Trump said of Crozier’s future.
Modly, who fired Crozier on Thursday, late Monday was forced to issue an apology to the crew after calling Crozier’s decision to send a letter requesting assistance to a broad array of Navy personnel “naive” and “stupid.”
Esper “did not care for” Modly’s comments on the carrier and instructed the acting secretary on Monday to issue an apology to the crew and to Crozier, said a second senior defense official.
After Modly offered his resignation, Esper spoke with other senior leaders in the department about naming a replacement, the second official said. Esper then went to the president to get his approval on selecting McPherson for the job.
Meanwhile, Esper’s staff was busy making calls to lawmakers to try to accelerate the confirmation of Kenneth Braithwaite, the former ambassador to Norway who has been nominated for the permanent Navy secretary role, according to a former Defense official with knowledge of the conversation. His nomination has been sent over to the Senate but has languished for weeks without action.
Modly’s resignation caps an extraordinary 24 hours following the Monday morning leak of the acting Navy leader’s address to the crew of the Roosevelt while the ship is tied up in Guam. Modly, who fired the ship’s commanding officer Capt. Brett Crozier on Thursday, late Monday was forced to issue an apology to the crew after calling Crozier’s decision to send a letter requesting assistance to a broad array of Navy personnel “naive” and “stupid.”