Home » Budget Industry » UPDATED: Trump Team Looking at Financier Philip Bilden for SECNAV Job

UPDATED: Trump Team Looking at Financier Philip Bilden for SECNAV Job

Philip Bilden

Philip Bilden

CLARIFICATION: This post has been amended to provide a more complete U.S. military service record for Philip Bilden. Bilden served in the U.S. Army Reserve as a military intelligence officer from 1986 to 1996 achieving the rank of Captain.

The Trump transition team is considering a little-known candidate for Secretary of the Navy with a background in high finance in Asia, several sources have confirmed to USNI News.

Philip Bilden, who ran a private equity business in Hong Kong for more than a decade, emerged in recent weeks in the running for the position, sources in the Navy and Congress told USNI News in the last several weeks.

As of Friday, sources inside the Trump camp considered Bilden the front-runner for the position over former Virginia Congressman Randy Forbes, USNI News understands.

Originally from Newport, R.I., Bilden attended Georgetown on a ROTC scholarship, graduated in 1986 and then served for ten years as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Reserve.

After leaving the service, Bilden enrolled in Harvard Business School and following graduation in 1991 joined the HarbourVest private equity firm in Boston.

In 1996 he left Massachusetts for Hong Kong to found an Asian branch of the business that he ran until about three years ago when he moved back to the U.S. and settled back in Rhode Island.

Bilden has one son who graduated from the Naval Academy and another son who is currently a midshipman in Annapolis.

“He is a man of extraordinary expertise on maritime and nautical affairs. He is an expert on Asia and understands, in particular, China very deeply,” former NATO supreme commander retired Adm. James G. Stavridis told USNI News on Friday.
“He’s a highly distinguished businessman who understands efficiency… he has unimpeachable integrity and is one of the kindest smartest people I have ever met.”

Bilden follows in the mold of Trump’s Secretary of the Army pick, billionaire Vincent Viola a West Point grad that left the service after five years and then made a fortune in high finance.

While he has kept a low public profile, Bilden has deep connections within the military.

“He’s been very involved at the Naval Academy as a member of the board. He’s been a strong supporter of the U.S. Naval Institute,” Stavridis said.
“He is also on the board of the Naval War College.”

Bilden name has emerged as Forbes has gained steady bipartisan support since Trump’s election from his former colleagues in Congress – including Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), Rep Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Rep Rob Wittman (R-Va.). Forbes – who served for years as the chair of the House Armed Services sea power subcommittee and on the congressional China caucus – is also a favorite choice of Vice President-elect Mike Pence for SECNAV, USNI News understands.

As to Bilden, Stavridis compared the businessman to Richard Danzig – a lawyer who served successfully as Secretary of the Navy in the Clinton administration.

“To stack [Bilden] against Randy Forbes — Ok he’s not the chairman of the sea power subcommittee, but I would say that he’s more in the model of distinguished, highly successful innovative business man with military service as an intelligence officer and very strong contacts though out the Navy today,” Stavridis said.
“He doesn’t have to come in and serve. He’s not a Washingtonian, not an insider and I would regard that as a plus serving in a Trump administration.”

  • Curtis Conway

    Looks good to me. I would never argue with SHAPE (SACEUR)!

    • FourWarVet

      Concur. That endorsement carries a lot of weight in my book.

  • Western

    Sounds like just the guy to get shipyards moving in the right direction.

  • Gen. Buck Turgidson

    Hope he likes boats and anchor crankers

    • kingsugar78

      and my Marines and how they are actually the war fighters on the ground, in the air, as well as on the seas. Semper Fi is not just a saying, but a way of life. Let’s see how he fits in.

      • Sons of Liberty

        How about we don’t and get a real SeCNAv.

  • PolicyWonk

    The assessment of Bilden on Breaking Defense wasn’t nearly as charitable, to be generous…

  • RobM1981

    Anyone care to read the Tea Leave’s? Is he going to come in with a businessman’s eye for efficiency (i.e. “cut”) or is he going to go for the shiny new things?

  • The Plague

    Disappointment. This guy comes from finance, likely to see things with a beancounter’s eyes. I’m afraid that “cost reduction” mandate for shipbuilding attributed to Trump the other day might end up looking more like a product-gutting session at General Motors in the late 90’s… Hull numbers are gonna be there, but what’s gonna be in them?

  • b2

    Mr. Stavrividis is an elite intellectual typey flag retired who writes well and served well (writing for Proceedings since he was a LT…). His opinions are well documented.
    My gut feel from his hearty endorsement is mixed. This new individual could bring ideas but he is a “Navy gadly” it seems. I say that not as a bad thing, just being pragmatic. We need someone well known to build capacity and re-flesh the US Navy not just talk about innovating something new all the time…..

    • Curtis Conway

      I bet an Army type knows that one must be able to defend oneself when shot at. Those building LCS/frigate haven’t figured that out yet. I’ll let the Army rebuild my Navy. They want 30 mm on the Strykers.

  • kaigun2

    It would be nearly impossible for him to be worse for the Navy than Obama’s SECNAV has been.

    • Sons of Liberty

      Not a high bar to hurdle. After navy’s we need s real operator in the job not this guy who’s only credential is he lives in Newport near the NWC.

  • kingsugar78

    Never knew a doggie who could command a Marine, or sailor, with any degree of what these men and women actually did. Oh well, we’ll see how this turns out. What could possibly go wrong?

  • Sons of Liberty


  • Bhess

    I was in the Army and even I knew the changing the rates was a terrible idea. I went to Navy A and C schools for CTT so I had some inside knowledge.

    One of my CPO instructors knew an Army linguist that had more sea time than he did. The linguist knew some rare dialect so they put a conex container on a ships deck and stuck him in it for a couple of months.