President Donald Trump on Wednesday nominated financier and former Army Reserve officer Philip Bilden to be the next secretary of the Navy, saying his business experience would aid him in rebuilding the naval fleet from "its lowest point … in decades."
Bilden has been widely rumored in recent days as Trump's pick for the job, a surprise to many who expected former congressman J. Randy Forbes to receive the nomination.
Bilden recently retired as co-founding member and senior adviser of HarbourVest Partners, a private equity investment management firm managing more than $42 billion in assets, according to a White House announcement. He joined the firm in 1991, and became a founding member in 1997 during a management buyout with the predecessor company. In 1996, he moved to Hong Kong to establish the company's presence in Asia, according to the release.
In the Army, he served as a military intelligence officer, receiving his commission in 1986 following participation in Reserve Officers' Training Corps while at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He rose to the rank of captain and worked in detachments supporting the Defense Intelligence Agency, then resigned his commission in 1996 to relocate to Hong Kong for HarbourVest.
Bilden has also served on the boards of a number of nonprofit organizations, including several focused on the military. He is on the board of directors of the United States Naval Academy Foundation and the board of trustees of the Naval War College Foundation, serving there as the chairman of the Center for Cyber Conflict studies, according to the announcement.
"Bilden is deeply committed to military service members and their families, coming from a military family with four consecutive generations of seven Bilden Navy and Army officers, including his two sons who presently serve in the US Navy," the announcement states. "He greatly respects the sacrifices that Navy and Marine Corps families make to serve their country."
Bilden will succeed Ray Mabus, the longest-serving Navy secretary since the first world war with nearly eight years in the position. Currently, Sean Stackley, previously undersecretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, is serving as the acting secretary of the Navy.
In a statement, Trump referred to his plan to increase the size of the Navy to 350 ships from its current battle force of 274.
"As Secretary of the Navy, Philip Bilden will apply his terrific judgement and top-notch management skills to the task of rebuilding our unparalleled Navy," the president said. "Our number of ships is at the lowest point that it has been in decades. Philip Bilden is the right choice to help us expand and modernize our fleet, including surface ships, submarines and aircraft, and ensure America's naval supremacy for decades to come."
Bilden affirmed his plan to build up the Navy if confirmed.
"I am deeply humbled and honored to serve as Secretary of the Navy," he said in a statement. "Maintaining the strength, readiness, and capabilities of our maritime force is critical to our national security. If confirmed, I will ensure that our sailors and Marines have the resources they need to defend our interests around the globe and support our allies with commitment and capability."