Vice Adm. Michelle Howard has been nominated to serve the second in command of the U.S. Navy, making her the first African American female to be nominated for the rank of admiral, the service told USNI News on Friday.
Howard, if confirmed, will replace current Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO), Adm. Mark E. Ferguson, for the position serving directly under CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert.
Ferguson, in turn, has been nominated to command the U.S. Navy’s forces in Europe, Africa and lead Allied Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy.
Howard is a 1982 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and was the first African American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship — USS Rushmore (LSD-47) — in 1999.
She has also commanded the Amphibious Squadron Seven, Expeditionary Strike Group Two and Task Force 151 — the U.S. led multi-national anti-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia.
Howard is currently the Deputy CNO for Operations, Plans and Strategy (N3/N5).
If confirmed by the Senate, Howard will be the first female four star in the Navy. In 2008 U.S. Army Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody became the first female officer in U.S. military history to earn a fourth star.
Howard’s nomination is following a trend from the Obama administration to place more women in higher defense positions.
Earlier this month the administration nominated Christine Fox as the acting deputy secretary of defense — the Pentagon’s number two civilian official.