President Joe Biden on Friday nominated Adm. Lisa Franchetti to be the next chief of naval operations. If confirmed by the Senate, Adm. Franchetti, the current vice chair of naval operations, will be the first woman to head the service and the first woman to serve as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The choice of Adm. Franchetti is a bit of a surprise, as it appeared until recently that she had been passed over.
Although she was initially thought to be a front-runner to be naval operations chief, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recommended Adm. Samuel Paparo for the top job. But Mr. Biden rejected Mr. Austin’s choice, and Adm. Paparo, now the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, has instead been nominated to be the next commander of Indo-Pacific Command.
“I’m very proud that Admiral Franchetti has been nominated to be the first woman chief of naval operations and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where she will continue to inspire all of us,” Mr. Austin said in a statement after the nominations were announced by the White House.
Adm. Linda Fagan, the commandant of the Coast Guard, is the first woman to lead a military service. But the Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security rather than the Department of Defense.
Vice Adm. James Kilby, now deputy commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, has been nominated to be the next vice chief of naval operations, while Vice Adm. Stephen Koehler was selected to command the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the world’s largest fleet command.
In a statement, the White House called them “highly decorated naval officers with extensive operational experience. They will help ensure that the U.S. military, and in particular the U.S. Navy, remain the most powerful and capable forces in the world at this critical moment.”
If confirmed as CNO by the Senate, Adm. Franchetti would replace Adm. Mike Gilday, whose four-year term will be over in the fall.
The nominations announced Friday, however, join a growing list of hundreds of senior-level military assignments blocked in a parliamentary standoff between Senate Democrats and Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.
Mr. Tuberville has put an effective hold on all nominations and promotions of generals and admirals in protest over a contentious Defense Department policy that funds travel and expenses for military personnel or family members seeking an abortion.
The Biden administration has sharply condemned the holdup and the senator, but Mr. Tuberville on Thursday confirmed that he has no plans to withdraw his holds over the Pentagon’s backing of what he and other GOP congressional critics have called “abortion tourism.”
Mr. Biden hit the Republican delay again in his nominating statement.
“These leadership positions are far too important to delay filling while one senator prioritizes his domestic political agenda over our military readiness,” the president said.