ANNAPOLIS, Md. – In a ceremony at the Naval Academy’s Memorial Hall, retiring Chief of Naval Operations Adm Mike Gilday was relieved by VCNO Adm. Lisa Franchetti. She will now perform the duties of CNO pending confirmation by the Senate amidst an ongoing block of confirmation for flag and general officers.
Gilday relinquished his command nearly four years to the day that he began serving as the Navy’s highest-ranking officer. Under his tenure, the Navy began the process of reshaping the service under the 2018 National Defense Strategy that shifted the focus from supporting the global war on terrorism to instead taking on China and Russia at sea.
“The character of war is changing. But our Navy team is adapting at speed. If we continue to act with urgency and purpose along with our allies and partners, we will meet any challenge,” Gilday said in his speech during the ceremony.
Members of the official party, which included Franchetti, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, arrived to the bell from Gilday’s first ship – the former Kidd-class destroyer USS Chandler (DDG-996), which was brought in for the ceremony.
Austin, Franchetti and Del Toro highlighted Gilday’s push to modernize the Navy as global competition increased.
“Your vision and transformational leadership these past four years has laid the foundation on which we are building our Navy’s readiness for today while designing the fleet of tomorrow,” Franchetti said.
“We look to the horizon and prepare for the challenges that lie ahead, I will act with a sense of urgency to ensure our sailors have everything they need to maintain our warfighting edge.”
In his speech, Austin said, “under Adm. Gilday’s leadership, the Navy has made great strides to modernize our fleet to strengthen its capabilities and to protect American power on a global scale.”
Gilday, a career surface warfare officer, pushed for an expanded fleet over almost his entire tenure as the service and the Pentagon clashed over the size and character of the Navy in the modern era. Last year, he said the service needed a fleet of about 500 ships to meet the needs of the National Security Strategy. He also led the service in the early requirements process for developing major new platforms for the air, surface and submarine forces. While CNO, Gilday also pushed for better unit-level accountability as part of his “get real, get better” construct that included efforts to better retain and recruit women and minorities.
Franchetti was nominated to lead the service last month.
“I am proud that she will be my CNO,” Gilday said in his speech at the ceremony. “She is a fleet sailor, an operator, a warfighter. She has already made the Navy better as our vice chief of Naval operations, the Navy is in good hands with her at the helm.”
Moving ahead, Franchetti will take charge of the service that is facing shortfalls in recruiting, flat budgets and lingering quality-of-life issues that have plagued the service.
Gilday, like the other top officers of the military, is leaving the office to an acting CNO as military promotions requiring Senate confirmation are currently on hold by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who has prevented service nominations from getting approval over the Pentagon’s policy of paying for leave and travel for non-covered reproductive care.
It is the first time in the Department of Defense’s history that three of the military’s top officers are in acting positions, Austin said during his remarks at the ceremony.
In his remarks, Austin called on the Senate to confirm the now more than 300 military nominations, including Franchetti, as well as Gen. Eric Smith, who is currently in the position of acting commandant of the Marine Corps.
“This is unprecedented. It is unnecessary. And it is unsafe,” Austin said.
“Our troops deserve better.”