U.S. Navy Adm. Lisa Franchetti during a tour of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Dec. 13, 2022.

U.S. Navy Adm. Lisa Franchetti during a tour of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Dec. 13, 2022. U.S. Navy / Lance Cpl. Cody Purcell

Franchetti chosen to become the first woman to lead the US Navy

Adm. Samuel Paparo, rumored to be the recommended pick for CNO, will instead be nominated to helm INDOPACOM.

President Joe Biden will nominate Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti as the next chief of naval operations, setting her up to shatter two glass ceilings, U.S. officials said. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Franchetti will become the first woman CNO and the first woman to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

Biden announced his intention to nominate Franchetti on Friday, his most recent service chief pick in what will be a summer of leader transitions. He also said he would nominate Vice Adm. James Kilby to replace Franchetti as vice CNO, will nominate Adm. Samuel Paparo to head U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and will nominate Vice Adm. Stephen “Web” Koehler to lead U.S. Pacific Fleet.

However, all of the nominations may remain in extended limbo because of a hold on senior military nominations by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. The hold, which Tuberville placed in protest of the Pentagon’s policy on reproductive healthcare for women, is creating a leadership crisis for the military services. The Marine Corps is without a Senate-confirmed leader for the first time in more than 100 years, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville plans to hand over responsibility without a confirmed successor on Aug. 4. 

Biden called on the Senate to quickly confirm his nominations.

“These leadership positions are far too important to delay filling while one senator prioritizes his domestic political agenda over our military readiness,” he said in a statement Friday.

Adm. Mike Gilday, who has served as chief of naval operations for four years, is required by law to retire by Aug. 22.

Franchetti would take the helm as the Navy faces increasing aggression from China, and confronts mounting problems in the shipbuilding industry—from the lack of capacity in shipyards to a ship maintenance backlog. 

A New York native, Franchetti graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism from Northwestern University and earned her commission through the school’s Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps in 1985, according to her official Navy biography. She has previously served as the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea, commanded U.S. 6th Fleet, and worked as director for strategy, plans, and policy on the Joint Staff.

“Throughout her career, Adm. Franchetti has demonstrated extensive expertise in both the operational and policy arenas,” Biden said in his statement, noting that she is “the second woman ever to achieve the rank of four-star admiral in the United States Navy.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who reportedly recommended Paparo to be CNO, said he is “very proud” of Franchetti’s history-making nomination, “where she will continue to inspire all of us.”

Paparo, who has led Pacific Fleet since May 2021, instead was nominated to head INDOPACOM. Paparo took his current role just months after the Pentagon reported that China now has more warships than the United States. Tensions between the United States and China have only risen since, as illustrated by a close call in the Taiwan Strait in June.

Paparo graduated from Villanova University and earned his commission in 1987, according to his official Navy biography. He has flown F-14 Tomcats, F-15C Eagles, and F/A-18 Hornets, and also led a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan alongside U.S. soldiers.

Kilby, the deputy commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, was picked to replace Franchetti as vice chief of naval operations. A 1986 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Kilby has served as the commander of the Carl Vinson Strike Group and as the deputy chief of naval operations for warfighting requirements and capabilities, according to his official Navy biography.  

Koehler, who will be nominated to command Pacific Fleet, previously served as the fleet’s deputy commander. The naval aviator has flown F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, and also commanded U.S. 3rd Fleet, according to his official Navy biography. He is currently serving as the director for strategy, plans, and policy on the Joint Staff.