On April 2, 2020, while serving as Acting Secretary of the Navy, Modly dismissed Captain Brett Crozier from command of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. Modly said he had lost confidence in Crozier's judgment because he claimed the captain had sent a letter outside his chain of command via unclassified email headed "Dear Fellow Naval Aviators," with wide distribution ("20 or 30 people") but not including Modly or his chief of staff. The Washington Post subsequently obtained the e-mail and found that it had been addressed to 10 people: Crozier's immediate superior, Rear Admiral Stuart P. Baker, plus two other admirals of U. S. forces in the Pacific, with copies to seven Navy captains. The letter criticized the Navy's management of a COVID-19 outbreak onboard the Theodore Roosevelt, and recommended decisive action to deal with it. The letter was leaked to the press. Modly's decision to immediately relieve Crozier of command went against the advice of Admiral Michael M. Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations, who argued that usual Navy procedures would require an investigation before such an action. Modly later said he acted to prevent repetition of a 2019 incident in which "the Navy Department got crossways with the president" after Trump's intervention in the case of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher. "I put myself in the president's shoes," Modly stated. "I considered how the president felt like he needed to get involved in Navy decisions. I didn't want that to happen again. " The situation has been described as highlighting "a growing divide between senior uniformed commanders and their civilian bosses".