UPDATED: White House Picks Lisa Franchetti as Next CNO, Sam Paparo as INDO-PACOM CO

July 21, 2023 1:54 PM
(from top left clockwise) Adm. Lisa Franchetti, Adm. Sam Paparo, Vice Adm. Stephen Koehler, Vice Adm. Jim Kilby

This post was updated with additional details and a statement from the White House.

The Biden administration nominated the current Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti to be the next Chief of Naval Operations and current U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Sam Paparo to lead U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

The White House also selected Vice Adm. Jim Kilby to serve as VCNO and Vice Adm. Stephen Koehler to follow Paparo as the next commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

If confirmed by the Senate, Franchetti will serve as the 33rd Chief of Naval Operation, succeeding current CNO Adm. Mike Gilday, who is set to retire.

“Lisa Franchetti will bring 38 years of dedicated service to our nation as a commissioned officer, including in her current role of Vice Chief of Naval Operations,” reads a statement from the White House.
“Throughout her career, Adm. Franchetti has demonstrated extensive expertise in both the operational and policy arenas. She is the second woman ever to achieve the rank of four-star admiral in the United States Navy, and when confirmed, she will again make history as the first woman to serve as the Chief of Naval Operations and on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Franchetti will take charge of service in the midst of a shift toward high-end, networked warfare that’s seen flat budgets, low recruiting and continued oversight from the Office of the Secretary of Defense over its shipbuilding plans.

Her nomination follows more than a month of speculation of who the next CNO pick would be after reports emerged Secretary of Defense Austin recommended Paparo to take leadership of the service following Gilday. Several defense officials told USNI News that the move to put Paparo in the CNO job would put the Army in a position to take charge of INDO-PACOM – a command the Navy has held for almost 80 years.

Instead, the Biden administration affirmed Paparo as their pick to lead the Hawaii-based command when current commander Adm. John Aquilino retires next year. Franchetti and Paparo will lead the Navy during what officials have identified as a period where China poses a substantial military threat.

Previous INDO-PACOM commander Adm. Phil Davidson told Congress in 2021 that China could move to seize Taiwan by 2027, USNI News reported at the time. Since then, estimates of a move by Beijing to take Taiwan have been affirmed again and again by U.S. officials.

In the shorter term, current CNO Gilday’s retirement is planned for mid-August. Franchetti is set to take over as acting CNO upon Gilday’s retirement, USNI News reported. Earlier this month, Gen. Eric Smith took charge of the Marine Corps as acting commandant from now-retired Gen. David Berger.

Confirmations of general and flag officers are on hold by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who refuses to allow for a vote on nominations over the Department of Defense’s policy allowing service members to reimburse travel and leave to seek non-covered reproductive care.

The Friday White House statement said Tuberville’s hold was hurting military readiness.

“What Sen. Tuberville is doing is not only wrong—it is dangerous,” reads the statement.
“He is risking our ability to ensure that the United States Armed Forces remain the greatest fighting force in the history of the world.”

Service History

Adm. Samuel Paparo, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, addresses the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) following the completion of their maintenance availability on June 29, 2021. US Navy Photo

Franchetti is a career surface warfare officer who came up on destroyers. She has served as the VCNO since last year. Franchetti was recently head of the J5 Strategic Plans and Policy on the Joint Staff. She was first commissioned into the Navy in 1985 through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at Northwestern University, according to her biography.

She was head of the Navy’s warfighting development office on the chief of naval operations staff, led U.S. 6th Fleet in Europe and Africa, commanded U.S. Naval Forces Korea, Carrier Strike Groups 9 and 15, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21 and guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG-71).

At sea, Franchetti has served aboard USS Shenandoah (AD-44), USS Monongahela (AO-178), USS Moosbrugger (DD-980), USS Stout (DD-55) and the George Washington Carrier Strike Group.

Career aviator Paparo has led U.S. Pacific naval forces since May 4, 2021, after a brief stint commanding U.S. 5th Fleet in U.S. Central Command. He graduated from Villanova University in 1987 and began his career as a fighter pilot, flying F-14 Tomcats, F/A-18 Hornets and F-15C Eagles as an exchange officer with the Air Force. At sea, he commanded Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 195 in Yokosuka, Japan, and Carrier Air Wing 7, embarked with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Strike Group. He also commanded the Provincial Reconstruction Team, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, and Combined Air and Space Operations Center, Al Udeid, Qatar.

Vice Adm. Jim Kilby, commander, Task Force 80 and deputy commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, speaks at the Surface Navy Association (SNA) East Waterfront Conference, at Mariner Skills Training Center Atlantic, May 17, 2023. Navy Photo

Surface warfare officer Kilby is currently serving as deputy commander of Fleet Forces, a position he has held since August 2021. The White House previously tapped Rear Adm. John Gumbleton, who is currently serving as deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for Budget, to take over for Kilby, if approved by the Senate, USNI News previously reported.

Kilby, of Pound Ridge, N.Y., graduated from the Naval Academy in 1986. He earned his master’s degree in information technology management from the Naval Postgraduate School.

He previously served on USS Sampson (DDG-10), USS Philippine Sea (CG-58) and USS San Jacinto (CG-56). He served as the commander of USS Russell (DDG-59) and the decommissioned USS Monterey (CG-61), according to his official Navy biography.

He stood up the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center before serving as the commander of the Carl Vinson Strike Group.

After his stint as strike group commander, he served as the director of Warfare Integration and the deputy chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Requirements and Capabilities.

Vice Adm. Stephen Koehler is piped ashore after assuming command of U.S. 3rd Fleet from Vice Adm. Scott D. Conn during a change of command ceremony on Naval Base Point Loma, June 3, 2021. US Navy Photo

Career aviator Koehler currently serves as the director for Strategy, Plans and Policy, J5, as well as a senior member of the U.S. delegation the United Nations Military Staff. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin tapped Koehler for the role in April 2022, the same time that he nominated Franchetti for vice chief of naval operations.

He graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1986 and commissioned into the Navy through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps. He received his designation as a naval aviator in 1989, according to his Navy biography. He earned his master’s degree in National Security and Strategic studies from the Naval War College.

As an aviator, he flew the F-14 Tomcat and the F-18 E/F Super Hornet. He previously served as the executive officer for USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). He also served aboard USS Bataan (LHD-5) and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69).

He also served as the director of Fleet Training at U.S. Fleet Forces Command, director of operations for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Command. He previously commanded U.S. 3rd Fleet.

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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