White House Formally Announces Braithwaite Nomination for SECNAV

February 28, 2020 3:48 PM
Kenneth Braithwaite, the U.S. ambassador to Norway, arrives aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) on Nov. 15, 2018. US Navy photo

President Donald Trump formally announced his intention to nominate retired Navy Rear Adm. Kenneth Braithwaite to serve as the next secretary of the Navy.

Braithwaite currently serves as U.S. ambassador to Norway and previously served for 27 years in the Navy and Navy Reserve in both the aviation and communications fields.

USNI News first reported that Braithwaite would be the nominee for the job in November, after Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters that he personally made the recommendation to Trump.

“Kenneth Braithwaite is somebody I’ve known for quite some time. I think he’d be very capable. It’s my recommendation to the president,” Esper said during a press briefing at the Pentagon.

The two overlapped while working on the Hill, with Esper serving as a staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee between 1998 and 2002 and Braithwaite working for former Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) between 1997 and 2000, according to their bios.

Esper fired former Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer on Sunday, Nov. 24, “after losing trust and confidence in him regarding his lack of candor over conversations with the White House involving the handling of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said at the time. The Navy tried to reduce Gallagher in rank after being found guilty of posing for a photo with a dead combatant, but Trump intervened and restored his rank. Trump also rejected a Navy effort to consider taking away Gallagher’s Trident pin. With Esper and Spencer caught trying to manage the crisis within the chain of command and between civilian and military leadership, Esper wound up firing Spencer.

By the next day, Esper announced Braithwaite as the recommendation to take over the job.

Though it has been more than three months, the Senate has still not received a formal nomination from the White House, according to Senate nomination records online.

Thomas Modly, who has served as undersecretary of the Navy since December 2017, has been serving as acting secretary since Spencer’s departure. Modly oversaw the finalization of the Fiscal Year 2021 budget request process, as well as extensive wargaming and simulation to support a new force structure assessment and a Marine Corps force design, in the absence of a permanent secretary.

Braithwaite graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1984, qualified as a naval aviator, and flew anti-submarine warfare missions tracking Soviet submarines throughout the Northern and Western Pacific Ocean regions as part of Patrol Squadron 17 and Patrol Wing 2, according to a biography. He later moved into legislative affairs jobs and then public affairs and strategic communications. The Pennsylvania native, who was the first in his class to reach the rank of rear admiral, wrapped up his military service in 2011, when he served as the Navy’s Vice Chief of Information.

Outside of his time in uniform, Braithwaite also served as Group Senior Vice President for Vizient, Executive Director of Delaware Valley Healthcare Council, Vice President of Government Affairs for Ascension Health, and State Director to former Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein is the former deputy editor for USNI News.

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