An obsession with secrets and protocol is a long-standing trait of the military brass, but in this case, the Navy’s top officers privately argued against Modly’s decision, preferring instead to open an investigation into Crozier’s decision. (Ship officers are supposed to move up the chain of command with such letters, but in this case, the command was moving too slowly and his men were getting sick. Crozier himself has since tested positive for the virus.) At least two retired officers—Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Adm. James Stavridis, former commander of NATO—have spoken out in support of Crozier’s action and against his dismissal.

Even if one accepts Modly’s premise that ship commanders shouldn’t go outside the chain of command under any circumstances, especially when doing so might incite panic about the health of the sailors and the readiness of the U.S. fleet, it is now inarguable that the secretary’s own actions—the outright firing of the captain and the insulting tone of his comments to the crew—have made things worse. He has also almost certainly torpedoed morale throughout the Navy, and it wouldn’t be surprising if, in the next quarter, retention and recruitment rates plummet…

Unless Trump wants the Navy’s image to suffer more deeply, or wants his efforts to counter the coronavirus to seem even more half-hearted, Thomas Modly should be next to get the boot, and Crozier should get a medal.