Fleet Forces Commander Tapped to Be Vice Chair of Joint Chiefs

Adm. Christopher W. Grady
Adm. Christopher W. Grady, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, delivers a speech during the Commander, Submarine Forces change of command ceremony in Norfolk, Va., Sept. 10, 2021. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cameron Stoner)

The Navy admiral in charge of U.S. Fleet Forces Command has been nominated to be the second-highest ranking member of the U.S. military.

Adm. Chris Grady, who has led Fleet Forces Command since May 2018, was nominated Monday to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to a Senate Armed Services Committee aide and a notice posted to Congress.gov on Monday. Tuesday afternoon the Pentagon announced the nomination.

Prior to leading Fleet Forces Command, Grady headed up the U.S. 6th Fleet. His career has also included time commanding the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group, during which he deployed for nearly 10 months to the Western Pacific and the Arabian Gulf conducting combat operations in support of the counter-ISIS mission known as Operation Inherent Resolve, according to his Navy biography.

He also served as assistant to the Joint Chiefs chairman in 2017.

Grady's nomination comes weeks before the current vice chairman, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, is set to retire.

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Ahead of his retirement, Hyten warned that his successor will need to contend with a Pentagon that takes too long to develop new weapons and capabilities needed to compete with adversaries such as China that are leaping ahead.

"Right now, it's so frustrating because the answer to every question I get is that, 'OK, we need the following capability.' And how long is it going to take? And the answer is 10-15 years," Hyten told reporters last week.

As Hyten's Nov. 21 retirement neared, lawmakers expressed concern that the vice chairman position could sit vacant, urging the White House to send a nomination as quickly as possible.

Even with a nominee now named, the confirmation process -- which includes meetings with individual senators, a Senate Armed Services hearing, a committee vote and full Senate vote -- could take weeks and leave a gap in the position.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., who is responsible for leading Pentagon nominees through the confirmation process, last week expressed hope lawmakers in both parties could cooperate to move as quickly as possible to confirm a vice chairman nominee.

But Reed also downplayed concerns about the vacancy, noting that the job has been open before and expressing confidence that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley can make up for any gaps.

In 2019, between Hyten’s confirmation and the his predecessor’s retirement, the vice chairman position was vacant for four months while senators weighed allegations Hyten committed sexual assault. Hyten denied the claims by a female Army officer and was ultimately confirmed by a wide bipartisan majority.

Milley was chairman for two of those four months.

"He understands and is prepared," Reed said of Milley managing the Joint Chiefs without a vice chairman, adding he recently spoke with the general.

Still, Republicans on Tuesday hit President Joe Biden for the late nomination.

"It's still very unlikely, in terms of meetings, in terms of hearings, in terms of floor time ... that we're going to get this done in the proper amount of time without having a gap," Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said at a news conference Tuesday. "Why on earth would you have a dereliction of duty approach to a very simple issue: Put forward the vice chairman nominee before there's a gap."

-- Rebecca Kheel can be reached at rebecca.kheel@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.

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