Acting Commanders Set to Take Charge of Naval Academy, Naval Air Forces and NAVSEA

August 25, 2023 6:38 PM
(l to r) Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, Rear Adm. George Wikoff and Rear Adm. Tom Anderson

Temporary leaders for the Naval Academy, Naval Air Forces and Naval Sea Systems Command are set to step into acting roles between now and Sept. 7, as an ongoing hold on confirming senior military nominations continues, USNI News has learned.

Rear Adm. Fred Kacher will start next week as the superintendent of the Naval Academy after Vice Adm. Sean Buck prepares to retire, a USNA official confirmed to USNI News. Kacher will start full-time in Annapolis on Monday to complete the transition ahead of Buck’s retirement on Sept. 1.

“Vice Adm. Sean Buck will retire from the Navy after 40 years of service on Sept. 1. Rear Adm. Fred Kacher will serve as the acting superintendent until the U.S. Senate confirms the Naval Academy’s next superintendent,” reads a statement from Academy spokesperson Cmdr. Ashley Hockycko.
“This transition will not impact day-to-day operations at the Naval Academy. The Naval Academy remains committed to its mission of training and educating future Navy and Marine Corps officers, ensuring a seamless transition of leadership and continuity of its esteemed programs.”

Buck introduced Kacher to the USNA midshipmen at Alumni Hall on Tuesday, according to the Naval Academy’s Instagram page.

“Vice Admiral Sean S. Buck bid farewell after 44 remarkable years of service, leaving the Brigade with invaluable words of wisdom,” reads the caption from the post.

One of Buck’s final acts as superintendent will be to attend the Naval Academy football game in Dublin, Ireland, versus the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame on Saturday. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro will also attend.

Kacher was nominated to lead the Japan-based U.S. 7th Fleet earlier this year. Rear Adm. Yvette Davids, who was nominated to lead the Academy in April, is currently filling in as the commander of Naval Surface Forces as of last week.

Additionally, the outgoing commander of U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command is set to retire in early September. The current head of Program Executive Office Ships Rear Adm. Tom Anderson will fill in as the temporary head of the command that is charge of procuring and maintaining the Navy’s ships and submarines. Current PEO Carriers Rear Adm. Jim Downey has been nominated to lead NAVSEA.

In aviation, the current commander Naval Air Forces Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell is set to retire on Sept. 7, and the former vice director of the Joint Staff Rear Adm. George Wikoff is set to take over for the California-based command that oversees the operational naval aviation fleet and aircraft carriers.

Other positions are being filled by temporary leaders.

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti is serving as the acting chief of naval operations pending her confirmation for the Navy’s top job.

As of Friday, five three other three-star jobs are being held by temporary leaders.

Rear Adm. John Menoni, currently on the OPNAV staff, is now serving as the acting head of Navy Installations now that former commander Vice Adm. Yancy Lindsey retired.

Three-star jobs on the chief of naval operations (OPNAV) staff are being filled by civilian deputies. Former director of naval intelligence (N2/N6) Vice Adm. Jeffery Trussler, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Integration of Capabilities and Resources (N8) Vice Adm. Randy Crites and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Requirements and Capabilities Vice Adm. Scott Conn have all retired.

As of Friday, 86 Navy flag positions are on hold, according to Defense Department to data provided to USNI News.

Since February, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) has placed a hold on unanimous Senate confirmations for military nominations over objections to a Pentagon policy that reimburses service members for travel out-of-state for abortions. The Defense Department policy also includes other non-covered procedures like in vitro fertilization. Tuberville says the policy is a violation of the Hyde Amendment that bans federal funds to be used for abortions – a charge the Pentagon denies. So far 301 flag and general officer nominations are on hold across the DoD.

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.
Follow @samlagrone

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