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Golden and Pingree call for acting Navy Secretary’s resignation

Golden said, ‘Mr. Modly’s failure to meet the high standards expected of our Navy’s leaders renders him unsuitable for duty as Acting Secretary of the Navy’
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2019, file photo, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly testifies during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee about about ongoing reports of substandard housing conditions in Washington, on Capitol Hill. Modly says the captain of the COVID-stricken aircraft carrier who was fired last week had betrayed his service and may have been “too naive or too stupid” to be commanding officer of the ship. Officials are confirming that Modly made the comments Sunday, April 5, 2020, to the ship's crew in Guam. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Maine Congressman Jared Golden and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree released statements Tuesday calling for the resignation of acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly. Golden’s statement expresses his “continuing concern over the Navy’s refusal to seriously address the public health threats facing the shipbuilding workforce across the country,” a press release says.

Golden’s call for resignation comes on the heels of Modly’s comments made aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Monday while docked in Guam. In a recording of Modly’s remarks to sailors obtained by NPR, Modly can be heard delivering a profanity-laced denunciation of Captain Crozier, who he fired three days before for leaking information about the dire conditions aboard the Roosevelt. 

According to a letter sent by Crozier to his superior officials, thousands of crew members remained on the ship despite dozens of confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

"It was my opinion that if he didn't think that information was going to get out into the public in this information age that we live in, then he was a) too naive or too stupid to be the commanding officer of a ship like this," Modly said to the sailors.

Golden, who was an infantryman in the Marines and served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Modly’s comments about Crozier “represent a profound lack of judgment and a callous strain of leadership that are beneath the office he holds.”

"“It was reprehensible for Acting Secretary Modly's to stand before the sailors of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt and insult the decorated Naval Officer who was fired for trying to protect them from the spread of COVID-19," Pingree said in a statement. "Acting Secretary Modly’s indefensible attacks on Captain Brett Crozier demonstrate that he is unfit to lead the men and women who serve in the Navy."

Golden, Pingree, and other members of the Maine congressional delegation have repeatedly pressed Modly and the Navy about health and safety concerns for Bath Iron Works (BIW) workers amid the coronavirus outbreak. Despite their efforts, the Navy has not directly responded to the concerns.

RELATED: Mills and Maine Delegation put pressure on Defense Dept. over health concerns for BIW workers

“I also note with concern that the dangerous brand of leadership demonstrated by the Acting Secretary towards our uniformed personnel appears to also include the men and women who form the backbone of our shipbuilding workforce, such as those at Bath Iron Works, who continue to work in close quarters despite obvious risks posed by the current COVID-19 public health crisis,” Golden said.

The Navy shipbuilder BIW has continued operations as normal, despite workers testing positive for COVID-19. BIW is not allowing even its office workers to work remotely, saying in a statement, “As a manufacturing facility, the vast majority of our employees need to be onsite to do their jobs. Also, because our work is critical to national security, telecommuting would create significant security concerns for many of our employees.”

RELATED: Bath Iron Works denies 'work from home' requests during coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic

Workers disagree with this reasoning, though. Anonymous workers have said they believe it’s a monitoring productivity issue.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery has implemented teleworking and remote working. The U.S. Navy reported a civilian employee of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard died Sunday due to complications associated with the coronavirus.

RELATED: Portsmouth Naval Shipyard civilian employee dies of coronavirus

The U.S. Navy reported 617 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Monday. 

On Monday, the Navy issued new guidance requiring face masks for all individuals on Dept. of Defense property. BIW said its workers would begin wearing face masks beginning Tuesday. 

RELATED: Bath Iron Works to require Maine workers to wear face masks amid the coronavirus, COVID-19 outbreak

Both shipyards—BIW in Bath and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery—have been deemed essential to the U.S.'s defense by the Trump administration.

Pingree said, "Acting Secretary Modly’s perilous temperament demonstrates that he lacks the leadership needed to meet the unprecedented challenge we face. His unsound judgement extends beyond his degrading remarks aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt to his lack of responsiveness to concerns about the shipbuilding workforce at Bath Iron Works who are at risk."

“At this critical moment, when leadership matters most, the Navy’s priority should be to maintain readiness by protecting its most valuable, irreplaceable asset – its men and women in uniform and the shipbuilders who support them – from COVID-19,” Golden said. “Mr. Modly’s failure to meet the high standards expected of our Navy’s leaders renders him unsuitable for duty as Acting Secretary of the Navy. I believe he should resign.”

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