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Kenneth Braithwaite confirmed as next Navy secretary

Kenneth J. Braithwaite, arrives aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima on Nov. 15, 2018.

TRAVIS BALEY/U.S. NAVY

By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 21, 2020

WASHINGTON — Kenneth Braithwaite was confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote Thursday afternoon to be the 77th Navy Secretary.

Braithwaite is a 1984 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served in the Navy and then Navy Reserve for 27 years. While serving as the U.S. ambassador to Norway, President Donald Trump nominated him March 2 to be the next Navy secretary.

In his opening statement to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during his nomination hearing May 7, Braithwaite said the Navy is in “troubled waters” and listed some of the recent failings that he believes have caused a breakdown in trust in Navy leadership. His list included the Fat Leonard scandal, the 2017 collisions of the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain, as well as “judicial missteps” and the coronavirus outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Braithwaite said if confirmed his top priority would be to “restore the appropriate culture” in the service. Culture is what gives an organization a sense of belonging and good order and discipline, he said.

“[Navy] culture exists. I won’t say it’s broken. I think it’s been tarnished,” Braithwaite said. “I think the events over the last several years have helped see that occur.”

The Navy’s recent secretaries have been embroiled in controversies in the last several months.

Richard Spencer, the last Navy secretary, was fired Nov. 24 by Defense Secretary Mark Esper for his handling of the personnel decision of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, who was acquitted of murder in 2019 but found guilty of posing in a photo with the dead body of an Islamic State fighter. Spencer had gone around Esper to propose a different strategy to the White House on handling Gallagher and the Navy’s review of whether Gallagher would be able to retire with his SEAL trident pin.

Former acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned April 7 after disparaging comments he made to the crew of the Roosevelt about the aircraft carrier’s former commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, were leaked online. The Navy announced Wednesday that the ship had left Guam nearly two months after coming into port due to a coronavirus outbreak that infected more than 1,000 sailors aboard the ship.

kenney.caitlin@stripes.com
Twitter: @caitlinmkenney

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