Biden picks first woman to lead the US Navy

By on 25/07/2023 | Updated on 24/07/2023
Admiral Lisa Franchetti. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense

President Joe Biden has nominated admiral Lisa Franchetti to lead the US Navy. If confirmed, she would be the first woman service chief in the Pentagon and the first female member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Biden is understood to favour Franchetti – who is currently vice chief of operations for the Navy – based on the broad scope of her experience, which includes senior policy and administrative roles and a deep knowledge of budgeting and running a military department.

A surface warfare officer, she was commissioned in 1985 and has commanded at all levels, heading the US 6th Fleet and US Naval Forces Korea. She has also commanded two carrier strike groups and was the second woman ever to be promoted to four-star admiral.

Biden announced his decision in a statement on Friday. “Throughout her career, admiral Franchetti has demonstrated extensive expertise in both the operational and policy arenas,” he said, noting her 38 years in service.

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According to reports, a White House official said Biden understands the historical nature of Franchetti’s nomination and believed she would be an inspiration to both men and women.  

Franchetti will serve as the acting Navy chief from next month, when admiral Michael Gilday, the current top naval officer, retires.

It could be some time before she is confirmed as Navy chief in a permanent capacity. Hundreds of military moves are being held up by Republican senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, who is blocking confirmation of military officers in protest of a defence department policy that allows service members who have to go out of state for an abortion or other reproductive services to expense travel costs.

Read more: Biden directs federal agencies to protect abortion access

In his statement, Biden blasted Tuberville for prioritising his domestic political agenda over military readiness.

“What senator Tuberville is doing is not only wrong – it is dangerous,” the president said. “He is risking our ability to ensure that the United States Armed Forces remain the greatest fighting force in the history of the world. And his Republican colleagues in the Senate know it.”

Franchetti nomination goes against Pentagon chief’s recommendation

Biden’s decision to pick Franchetti went against the recommendation of Pentagon chief, general Lloyd Austin, who reportedly advised last month that admiral Samuel Paparo take the role. Austin’s recommendation is understood to have come as a surprise to many Pentagon insiders who have long expected Franchetti to be in line for the top job.

Paparo, a Topgun graduate who leads the Navy’s Pacific Fleet and has experience grappling with growing challenge from China, has instead been nominated to lead the US Indo-Pacific Command.

Austin nevertheless welcomed Franchetti’s nomination: “I’m very proud that admiral Franchetti has been nominated to be the first woman chief of naval operations and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” he said.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff is a group of the most senior uniformed leaders in the US Department of Defense, responsible for advising the president, the defence secretary, and the homeland security and national security councils on military matters.  

Several women have served as military service secretaries as political appointees but never as a top uniformed officer. Admiral Linda L. Fagan is currently the commandant of the Coast Guard, though this is part of the Department of Homeland Security rather than the Pentagon, and she is not a member of the Joint Staff.

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About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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