THE PENTAGON — The head of U.S. forces in the Pacific has been put forth as the Trump administration’s pick to be the next U.S. ambassador to Australia, The White House announced on Friday.
Adm. Harry Harris, who has long been rumored to be the administration’s pick for the top U.S. diplomatic post in Canberra, has led forces in the region as the commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet in 2013 and took over as the head of U.S. Pacific Command in 2015.
As PACOM and PACFLT commander, Harris has been an outspoken critic on China’s militarization of the South China Sea calling the network of artificial islands part of a, “Great Wall of Sand.”
“During his 39-year career, he served in every geographic combatant command and has held seven command assignments, including the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the U.S. Sixth Fleet, and [Patrol Squadron] VP-46,” read a statement from The White House.
“[He is] a highly decorated, combat proven Naval officer with extensive knowledge, leadership and geopolitical expertise in the Indo-Pacific region.”
Harris graduated from the Naval Academy in 1978 and served as a Naval Flight Officer aboard P-3C Orion anti-submarine warfare aircraft.
Also on Friday, the Pentagon announced that the current head of U.S. naval forces in the Middle East is set to replace outgoing U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Scott Swift.
U.S. 5th Fleet commander Vice Adm. John Aquilino has been tapped to take charge of the Navy’s Pacific forces after only taking command of Central Command’s naval arm in September.
Prior to commanding 5th fleet, he was the deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy (OPNAV N3/N5). Aquilino graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1984 and was a career fighter pilot who flew F-14s and F/A-18s in the service.
It is yet unclear who will replace Harris and Aquilino at PACOM and 5th Fleet.
Several defense officials have told USNI News current U.S. Fleet Forces commander Adm. Phil Davidson is the leading contender to succeed Harris as PACOM commander.
The following are the complete Feb. 9, 2018 White House and Pentagon statements on Harris and Aquilino.
Harry B. Harris Jr. of Florida, to be to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of Australia. Admiral Harris currently serves as the 24th commander of U.S. Pacific Command. A highly decorated, combat proven Naval officer with extensive knowledge, leadership and geo-political expertise in the Indo-Pacific region, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1978 and was designated a naval flight officer in 1979. He earned a M.P.A. from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, a M.A. from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, and attended Oxford University. During his 39-year career, he served in every geographic combatant command and has held seven command assignments, including the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the U.S. Sixth Fleet, and VP-46. He and his wife, Bruni, live in Hawaii.
Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis announced today that the president has made the following nomination:
Vice Adm. John C. Aquilino for appointment to the rank of admiral, and assignment as commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Aquilino is currently serving as commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Central Command; and commander, Fifth Fleet/commander, Combined Maritime Forces, Bahrain.