Biden Picks Female Admiral to Lead Navy. She'd Be 1st Woman to Be a Military Service Chief

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Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti
In this image provided by the U.S. Navy, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti meets with leadership at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Nov. 17, 2022 in Kittery, Maine (Jim Cleveland/U.S. Navy via AP)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has chosen Adm. Lisa Franchetti to lead the Navy, a senior administration official said Friday. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to be a U.S. military service chief.

Biden's decision to tap Franchetti, an admiral with broad command and executive experience, goes against the recommendation of his Pentagon chief, but he is selecting an officer whom insiders had considered the top choice for the job. Franchetti, the current vice chief of operations for the Navy, would become the first female member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recommended that Biden select Adm. Samuel Paparo, the current commander of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, several U.S. officials said last month. But instead, the administration official said Biden is nominating Paparo to lead U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the nomination has not been made public.

    The administration official said Biden chose Franchetti based on the broad scope of her experience at sea and ashore, including a number of high-level policy and administrative jobs that give her deep knowledge in budgeting and running the department.

    At the same time, the official acknowledged that Biden understands the historic nature of the nomination and believes that Franchetti will be an inspiration to sailors, both men and women.

    Franchetti's nomination will join the list of hundreds of military moves that are being held up by Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama. He is blocking confirmation of military officers in protest of a Defense Department policy that pays for travel when a service member has to go out of state to get an abortion or other reproductive care.

    She is slated to serve as the acting chief beginning next month when Adm. Michael Gilday, the current top Navy officer, retires as planned.

    Several woman have served as military service secretaries as political appointees, but never as their top uniformed officer. A woman, Adm. Linda L. Fagan, is currently the commandant of the Coast Guard. She, however, is not a member of the Joint Staff.

    The president, said the official, believes Franchetti is the right person for the job and moving Paparo to head Pacific Command also puts the right person in that post.

    The official declined to comment on Austin's recommendation. But news last month that the defense chief had recommended Papara stunned many in the Pentagon because it was long believed that Franchetti was in line for the top Navy job.

    A surface warfare officer, she has commanded at all levels, heading U.S. 6th Fleet and U.S. Naval Forces Korea. She was the second woman ever to be promoted to four-star admiral, and she did multiple deployments, including as commander of a naval destroyer and two stints as aircraft carrier strike group commander.

    Paparo, who if confirmed would replace Adm. John Aquilino, is a naval aviator and a TOPGUN graduate with more than 6,000 flight hours in Navy fighter jets and 1,100 landings on aircraft carriers. A Pennsylvania native, he graduated from Villanova University and was commissioned into the Navy in 1987.

    Prior to his Pacific tour, he was commander of naval forces in the Middle East, based in Bahrain, and also previously served as director of operations at U.S. Central Command in Florida.

    The administration official said Biden will also nominate Vice Adm. James Kilby to be the vice chief of the Navy and tap Vice Adm. Stephen Koehler to head the Pacific Fleet.

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