Navy Announces New VCNO, Other Top Assignments, in First Notification Since Policy Reversal

May 6, 2020 4:22 PM - Updated: May 6, 2020 5:09 PM
Top Row (left to right): Vice Adm. William Lescher, Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, Rear Adm. Gene Black Bottom Row (left to right): Rear Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, Rear Adm. Yancy Lindsey, Rear Adm. John Mustin

The Navy announced several new assignments for its top officers, the first public announcement of its kind since December 2018, when the service stopped announcing senior flag moves in the name of cybersecurity.

Vice Adm. William Lescher has been nominated to serve as the next vice chief of naval operations, with current VCNO Adm. Robert Burke already having been confirmed by the Senate to serve as the next head of naval forces in Europe.

Lescher currently serves as deputy chief of naval operations for integration of capabilities and resources (N8), overseeing the budget and financial activities within the Navy. He previously served as deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget.

Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti was nominated to serve as the deputy chief of naval operations for warfighting development (OPNAV N7). N7 is the newest position on the chief of naval operations’ staff and seeks to align warfare development efforts such as wargaming, experimentation and education. This pulls from some of the responsibilities that previously fell under the N8 organization.

Franchetti currently serves as the commander of U.S. 6th Fleet in Europe. The job is multi-hatted, and she also serves as commander of Task Force Six, commander of Striking and Support Forces NATO, deputy commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, deputy commander of U.S. Naval Forces Africa and the Joint Force Maritime Component commander for Europe. She has served in those roles since March 2018.

Rear Adm. Gene Black would replace Franchetti at 6th Fleet, according to this announcement. Black has served as the director of the surface warfare division (OPNAV N96) since May 2019 and before that commanded the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group during its extensive operations in Europe and the Arctic in its deployment meant to demonstrate the dynamic force employment concept.

The Navy announced in a separate statement that Rear Adm. Paul Schlise would replace Black and serve as the next surface warfare director at the Pentagon. Schlise currently commands Carrier Strike Group 10, the Dwight D. Eisenhower CSG, which deployed in February and is currently operating in the North Arabian Sea, according to the USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker.

Additionally, Rear Adm. Kenneth Whitesell was nominated to serve as the next commander of Naval Air Forces and and commander of Naval Air Force Pacific. He would replace current Air Boss, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, who has led the aviation community since January 2018. Miller will likely retire, USNI News understands. Whitesell currently serves as deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii, and he previously commanded the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group – as did Miller before him.

Rear Adm. Yancy Lindsey was nominated to serve as commander of Navy Installations Command in Washington, D.C. Lindsey currently serves as commander of Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia; and commander of Maritime Air Forces out of Naples, Italy.

Navy Reserve Rear Adm. John Mustin was nominated to serve as the next chief of Navy Reserve. Mustin currently serves as commander of Expeditionary Strike Group Two in Norfolk, Va., and was involved in the deployment of hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) to New York City to help with the COVID-19 outbreak there.

The Navy in early Fiscal Year 2019 ceased announcing these nominations, departing from its own tradition and the reporting practices of its sister services. The lone admiral appointment it announced in FY 2019 was that of Vice Adm. James Malloy to command U.S. 5th Fleet following the sudden death of the previous commander, Vice Adm. Scott Stearney – in a nomination that was rushed through the Senate due to the circumstances. The service eventually began announcing the names of flag officers after they had been confirmed by the Senate, but not announcing their new assignments.

Former CNO Adm. John Richardson confirmed the new policy in March 2019, with the top leader saying that the leaders were vulnerable to cyber attacks when their names and new assignments were made public.

In contrast, the Air Force and Marine Corps had continued with the Navy’s former policy of releasing the names of general officers nominated for promotions and their next duty assignments that were pending Senate approval. The Army was releasing similar information about its general officers, but after Senate confirmation.

On Monday, current CNO Adm. Mike Gilday said he would reverse the policy and resume announcing flag officer nominations and assignments ahead of Senate confirmation, after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had written to him last month to say the service was out of step with the rest of the military and not adhering to provisions in the law.

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein is the former deputy editor for USNI News.

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