THE PENTAGON – Three Navy three-star admirals will retire while the service moves to find temporary replacements amidst an ongoing hold on Senate confirmations for military leaders.
The commanders of Naval Sea Systems and Naval Installations commands and the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy will leave the service this year despite their White House-nominated replacements being stalled by an ongoing confirmation hold from Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Navy officials confirmed to USNI News Thursday.
Each position will have a temporary commander to fulfill the duties of the outgoing three-star positions.
NAVSEA commander Vice Adm. Bill Galinis will retire, and Program Executive Officer Ships Rear Adm. Tom Anderson will oversee the command, which is responsible for the maintenance and acquisition of ships and submarines, a source familiar with the move told USNI News on Thursday.
The nominee to lead NAVSEA, Rear Adm. Jim Downey, relinquished his command of PEO Carriers earlier this month and is now serving as a special assistant to the office of the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition (RDA), pending his confirmation to the NAVSEA job.
Vice Adm. Sean Buck, the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, will also retire this year. Two sources familiar with the transition confirmed to USNI News that Rear Adm. Fred Kacher will serve as the acting superintendent. Kacher is the nominee to lead U.S. 7th fleet and is currently serving on the Joint Staff. Rear Adm. Yvette Davids was nominated to lead the service academy earlier this year.
Current U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Karl Thomas will remain in the Japan command pending his own confirmation to be the director of Naval Intelligence in the Pentagon.
Vice Adm. Yancy Lindsey, the commander of Navy Installations Command, was allowed to retire, and Rear Adm. John Menoni from the OPNAV staff will fill until a replacement is confirmed.
The moves are part of the Navy’s shuffling of leadership responsibilities as nominees are on hold pending confirmation from the Senate.
USNI News understands the Navy is the only service to approve retirements for general and flag officers as the services manage the leadership transitions, as of Thursday.
“We’ve leveraged every available authority to relocate people to meet their needs and the needs of the Navy. We’re also honoring approved retirement requests so our teammates that planned to complete their lifetime of service can move on to the next chapter of their journey,” Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti wrote to flag officers and senior captains last week in a letter reviewed by USNI News.
“As you and your teammates step up and take on additional responsibilities or move into temporary acting positions, we must all roll up our sleeves, and tighten the circle of trust and support that has seen our Navy through past challenges. Ensure there is 100% clarity in [command and control] and that our high standards are set and maintained.”
On Thursday, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told USNI News there was no set Defense Department policy on how the services could manage their leadership transitions.
Ryder told reporters that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with Tuberville on Thursday. Austin stressed to Tuberville the national security problems stemming from the leadership stalls in a brief conversation, Ryder said.
A spokesman from Tuberville referred USNI News to a tweet from a correspondent from Alabama news outlet Yellow Hammer News when asked about the conversation with Austin.
“At 1:30PM EST, @SenTuberville spoke with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Coach said he’s grateful for the cordial and productive conversation and looks forward to continuing dialogue in the near future,” reads the Tweet.
Tuberville has placed the hold over a Pentagon policy of allowing service members to be reimbursed for travel for non-covered reproductive healthcare. He argues that the policy violates the law that restricts federal funds for abortion.
As a result of the hold, 76 flag officers and 30 Marine general officers cannot move to new positions, including high-profile roles like the chief of naval operations, the director of naval reactors and fleets in the Atlantic, Middle East and the Western Pacific.
Additionally, the White House has not selected a nominee to succeed Adm. Mike Gilday as chief of naval operations. Gilday is due to retire in August.
If the hold isn’t lifted by the end of the month and a confirmation vote is held, the leadership backup is likely to continue into September due to Congress’ planned August recess, two defense officials told USNI News.