Senate Holds Dampen First Army-Navy Game for Trailblazing Superintendent Nominee

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Rear Adm. Yvette Davids visits with sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy
Rear Adm. Yvette Davids, acting Commander, Naval Surface Forces and acting Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, visits with sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) during a tour of the ship at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Aug. 29, 2023. (Chris Williamson/U.S. Navy)

By this week, Rear Adm. Yvette Davids was expected to be a vice admiral, looking forward to cheering on her alma mater as superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy -- the first female superintendent in its history -- during the annual Army-Navy football game.

Instead, the school won't have a permanent superintendent for the storied game. The Naval Academy, with a student body of roughly 4,400 and a faculty and staff of more than 2,500, is being led by Interim Superintendent Rear Adm. Frederick Kacher, whose own advancement to vice admiral and future command of the 7th Fleet also are in limbo as a result of a Senate hold on hundreds of military promotions.

While the president of a college has virtually no impact on the outcome of a football game, Davids, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1989 and received what would be a historic posting in April, is missing out on what should have been her first Army-Navy game as the school's leader.

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It's a fun opportunity, though, for Kacher, U.S. Naval Academy Class of '90, who is enjoying life in the superintendent's office and living at Farragut House, the superintendent's residence, while carrying on the duties of a college president.

"As the acting superintendent, [Kacher] attends all events that are associated with the position, including the Army-Navy game," Naval Academy public affairs officials said in a statement Tuesday.

More than 350 military promotions are being held up by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., over his opposition to a Pentagon policy that covers leave and travel expenses for service members seeking an abortion or fertility treatments.

When questioned about the hold's effect on the leadership at the academy, Tuberville's office issued a brief statement in support of Kacher.

"Coach has confidence in Admiral Kacher to get the job done," the statement read, using Tuberville's nickname as the long-standing head coach at numerous universities, including Auburn University and Texas Tech.

Davids was nominated in April to become the Naval Academy's 64th superintendent and the first woman in the post. She is currently working as the acting commander for Naval Surface Forces at the U.S. Pacific Fleet. A native of San Antonio, she is a surface warfare officer who has held sea assignments on at least eight ships and commanded two, the fast frigate Curts and the guided missile cruiser Bunker Hill.

Her most recent operational assignment was as commander of the Nimitz Strike Group.

Kacher also is a surface warfare officer who has served on numerous frigates and destroyers. His most recent sea command was at Expeditionary Strike Group Seven, deployed to the Western Pacific. He previously had served as commodore of Destroyer Squadron Seven.

In a statement to Military.com, academy officials said the business of educating future naval and Marine Corps officers continues regardless of leadership.

"The Naval Academy remains committed to its mission of training and educating future Navy and Marine Corps officers, ensuring a seamless transition of leadership, and continuity of its esteemed programs," officials said in a statement.

Questions about Davids' current assignment were referred to the Office of the Chief of Naval Information.

In September, the service secretaries publicly took issue with Tuberville's promotions hold, publishing an opinion piece in The Washington Post that said the blockade was harmful to national security.

"Across the services, many generals and admirals are being forced to perform two roles simultaneously. The strain of this double duty places a real and unfair burden on these officers, the organizations they lead and their families," wrote Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro.

In September, the Senate sidestepped Tuberville's hold and held a series of votes to confirm Air Force Gen. Charles "C.Q." Brown as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Eric Smith to be commandant of the Marine Corps, and Gen. Randy George to be chief of staff of the Army.

Earlier this month, the Senate confirmed Adm. Lisa Franchetti as chief of naval operations -- the first woman to lead the U.S. Navy -- and Gen. David Allvin as Air Force chief of staff in a 95-1 vote, with Tuberville casting a "yes" on the nominations. Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., cast the lone "no" vote.

Of the federal service academies, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy have been led by women. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point has never had a female superintendent.

The 124th Army-Navy game is scheduled for Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

– Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com.

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