U.S. Sub Force Commander Houston Nominated For Naval Reactors Director

May 4, 2023 1:39 PM
Vice Adm. William Houston

This post has been updated to correct the year when Adm. Frank Caldwell graduated from the Naval Academy.

The head of the Navy’s submarine force has been nominated to lead the service’s and the Department of Energy’s nuclear naval reactor program, according to a Pentagon announcement this week.

Vice Adm. William Houston was nominated for the rank of admiral and to serve as the director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, according to the announcement.

Houston is a 1990 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a career submariner. At sea he’s served aboard nuclear attack boat USS Phoenix (SSN-702), was the engineering officer aboard USS Hampton (SSN-767) and was the executive officer of the blue crew of ballistic nuclear submarine USS Tennessee (SSBN-734). He commanded attack boat USS Hampton (SSN-767) and was the commodore of Submarine Squadron 20, according to his Navy biography.

As a flag officer, he served as the deputy director for Strategic Targeting and Nuclear Mission Planning (J5N) United States Strategic Command; director of operations, Naval Forces Europe-Africa; deputy commander of U.S. 6th Fleet; commander of Submarine Group 8; and was the director of undersea warfare at the Office of Chief of Naval Operations (N97).

He assumed command of U.S. Submarine Forces on Sept. 9, 2021.

Unique among the services, the four-star position is a legacy of the first director, Adm. Hyman Rickover, who lead the nuclear Navy for more than three decades. Then President Reagan established the typically eight-year position by executive order in 1982 for either a civilian or Navy admiral who reports directly to the chief of naval operations.

The position touches almost every part of the nuclear submarine and nuclear carrier force, from safety, maintenance and new reactor design, in coordination with the Department of Energy.

The current director, Adm. Frank Caldwell, took command of NR in 2015 after then-director Adm. John Richardson was nominated to be CNO after two years in the job.

Caldwell, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1981, is also a career submariner. He commanded USS Jacksonville (SSN-699), homeported in Norfolk, Va., Submarine Development Squadron (DEVRON) 12 in New London, Conn., Submarine Group 9 in Bangor, Wash., and Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet, Hawaii.

Prior to taking over NR, Caldwell was the director of the Navy staff for the chief of naval operations. He is expected to retire.

Houston’s nomination, along with more than a hundred Defense Department military and civilian nominations, are on hold by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) over objections to Pentagon policies that allow service members to take leave, including out-of-state, for reproductive healthcare, including abortions.

Last month, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday told the Senate the holds did not have a major effect on the service yet, but could soon.

This year will mark a major turnover in the leadership of the DoD, with new leaders slated for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, as the incumbents’ terms expire, as well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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