Rear Adm. Michael Franken

Rear Adm. Michael Franken (U.S. Navy)

Rear Adm. Michael Franken, interim director of the new, unified agency responsible for recovering and identifying the remains of missing servicemembers, has held a number of leadership roles during his military career.

He has been commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa; vice director for strategy, plans, and policy at U.S. Central Command; commander of Destroyer Squadron 28; commander of Task Group 152 for the Eisenhower Strike Group; and U.S. Pacific Command division chief in the Joint Staff’s joint operations directorate.

Franken was hand-picked by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to be interim director of the new agency, according to defense officials.

In a statement, Hagel described Franken as “a highly qualified leader who has a strong operational and policy background.”

Defense officials said Franken is not new to standing up organizations. After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he helped establish “Deep Blue,” the Navy’s operational think tank that deals with classified missions. He also was the first commander of the destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill.

A senior defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the organizational changes, said that Franken’s biggest handicap as he enters the job is his lack of familiarity with the MIA identification-and-recovery mission and related operations.

“I have much to learn,” Franken acknowledged in a written statement provided to reporters.

The search for a permanent director is under way, according to officials, which means Franken may have little time to get up to speed and to make changes before he is replaced.

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