Female admiral fills in as Navy’s top officer while Austin decries hold on promotions
Stars and Stripes August 15, 2023
Adm. Lisa Franchetti assumed responsibilities of the Navy’s top officer this week, giving the service a stopgap while her appointment and hundreds of other military promotions languish in a political feud over abortion.
Franchetti became interim chief of naval operations as Adm. Michael Gilday departed the role in a ceremony Monday. She will provisionally remain in the position until someone can be formally appointed, the Navy said in a statement the same day.
“The work of our Navy continues undisrupted and unabated,” Franchetti said in a message to the fleet Monday. “We continue to operate our ships, submarines and aircraft at the point of friction with our competitors and at the point of friendship with our allies and partners.”
In July, President Joe Biden nominated Franchetti to be the 33rd chief of naval operations and the first woman to lead the service.
But hundreds of promotions across the military are being stalled by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., who opposes Pentagon policies that grant service members leave for abortion and pay their travel costs associated with the procedure.
As a result, three branches of the military are without a Senate-confirmed leader for the first time in the Defense Department’s history, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at Monday’s ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
“This is unprecedented. It is unnecessary. And it is unsafe,” Austin said.
He added that the Senate’s inability to confirm the promotions of Franchetti and other military officers was undermining preparedness and hurting the services’ ability to keep good leaders.
It also is unfair to service members and their families, Austin said.
The chief of naval operations is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and advises the president, the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council and the secretary of defense. The role also includes command of naval forces and shore activities.
Franchetti is the appointed vice chief of naval operations and is therefore required by federal law to serve in the chief’s role when the position is vacated or the Navy’s top officer is absent or disabled, the service said.
Gilday became the 32nd chief of naval operations in August 2019, the Navy said. He is retiring after a 38-year military career.
During that time, he commanded two destroyers and a destroyer squadron and had stints as director of operations for NATO’s Joint Force Command Lisbon and chief of staff for Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, according to his DOD biography.
Austin and Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro praised Gilday during the ceremony for his leadership and focus on readiness.
They also credited Gilday with improving the maintenance of ships, submarines and aircraft, modernizing the fleet and strengthening its capabilities.