Since the days of John Paul Jones and the American Revolution, the top job in the U.S. Navy has gone to a man, but that will change if President Biden’s pick to become the service’s top uniformed leader is confirmed.
The White House announced on Friday that President Biden intends to nominate Adm. Lisa Franchetti to become the Navy’s highest-ranking officer following the retirement of Adm. Michael M. Gilday this summer.
Lloyd J. Austin III, the secretary of defense, said he was proud that Admiral Franchetti had been selected to be the first woman to lead the Navy and to serve as a permanent member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“She will continue to inspire all of us,” Mr. Austin said in a statement.
Currently the Navy’s vice chief, Admiral Franchetti will serve in an acting role as the Navy’s top officer, awaiting confirmation by the Senate — a process that Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, has blocked for hundreds of admirals and generals in an attempt to force the Pentagon to drop a policy offering time off and travel reimbursement to service members who need to go out of state for abortions.
In a statement announcing her nomination, the White House cited Admiral Franchetti’s “extensive operational and policy experience” as among the reasons Mr. Biden chose her.
According to her official biography, Admiral Franchetti received her commission in 1985 through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Northwestern University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her career assignments trace the history of how women in the Navy have fought for the same combat jobs that men have always had.
At the time she was commissioned, women joining the fleet as surface warfare officers were typically limited to serving on so-called auxiliary ships that carried cargo, fuel, ammunition or repaired warships and submarines.
Her first tour was aboard the U.S.S. Shenandoah, an auxiliary ship designated for what was considered noncombat duties of tending to destroyers, a type of warship that has traditionally done some of the hardest fighting at sea, such as locating and attacking submarines and firing missiles and large-caliber guns at targets ashore.
By the time the Shenandoah was decommissioned in 1996, Congress had dropped its opposition to women in the Navy serving on surface combatant ships and warplanes.
Admiral Franchetti moved on to serve on multiple destroyers, ultimately commanding the U.S.S. Ross and later a squadron.
As an admiral she commanded two different aircraft carrier strike groups, a position that is considered the height of non-nuclear power projection at sea. Command of the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean followed.
Before her promotion to four stars and taking the Navy’s No. 2 job in September, Admiral Franchetti served as the director for strategy, plans and policy at the Joint Staff as its leaders began seeking more diversity.
Admiral Franchetti would be the second woman to lead a branch of the armed forces. Adm. Linda L. Fagan became the first to do so when she took the oath of office as commandant of the Coast Guard on June 1, 2022.
The White House and Pentagon both noted that Admiral Franchetti would be the first female officer to serve as a permanent member of the Joint Chiefs.
As commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Fagan reports to the homeland security secretary and is not considered an official member of the Joint Chiefs. However, as the leader of a branch of the armed forces, she typically participates in all meetings with the other service chiefs at the Pentagon.
John Ismay is a Pentagon correspondent in the Washington bureau and a former Navy explosive ordnance disposal officer. More about John Ismay
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