Temporary Commanders Now Lead Naval Air Forces, NAVSEA

September 12, 2023 5:51 PM
Rear Adm. George Wikoff, acting Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF), gives remarks during a change of charge ceremony on Naval Air Station North Island on Sept. 7, 2023. US Navy Photo

Acting commanders have taken over Naval Air Forces and Naval Sea Systems Command in two separate change of office ceremonies this month.

On Thursday, commander of Naval Air Forces Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell retired from the head of the California command that oversees the Navy’s aircraft and carrier fleet.

“Those who have gone before us have carried a torch that lit the way for us,” Whitesell said, according to a Navy news release.
“Now it is more important than ever that we carry the torch by getting ready and staying ready to meet all challenges that face Naval Aviation.”

As Air Boss, Whitesell saw the first deployment of the Navy’s F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter and the Navy’s CMV-22B Osprey carrier onboard delivery.

Former vice director of the Joint Staff Rear Adm. George Wikoff took on the role as temporary Air Boss in a ceremony at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.

Wikoff, a career fighter pilot, has been nominated for a promotion to vice admiral and to lead U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain. Rear Adm. Daniel Cheever was nominated for a third star and to command Naval Air Forces in March. He serves as chief of staff for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colo.

On Sept. 1, Vice Adm. William Galinis retired from NAVSEA in a ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard.

Rear Adm. Thomas J. Anderson relieved Vice Adm. William J. Galinis as (acting) Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command, during the retirement and Assumption of Command ceremony in Leutze Park at the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 1, 2023. US Navy Photo

“During Galinis’ tenure, he oversaw the delivery of 22 battle force ships and 260 boats and craft to the U.S. Navy fleet, the completion of 168 CNO availabilities, and 1,600 continuous maintenance availabilities,” reads a statement from NAVSEA.
“He oversaw the execution of over 160,000 contract actions valued at more than $180 billion.”

The former head of program executive office, ships, Rear Adm. Tom Anderson, will fill in as the temporary head of the command that is in charge of procuring and maintaining the Navy’s ships and submarines.

Former program executive officer for carriers Rear Adm. James Downey, now serving as special assistant to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition (RDA), was nominated to lead NAVSEA earlier this year.

As of Tuesday, there are eight three-star jobs in the Navy that are being filled with acting leaders, Navy officials told USNI News.

Last month, Rear Adm. Yvette Davids took charge of Naval Surface Forces as the acting SWO Boss.

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.

Civilian deputies are filling three-star jobs on the chief of naval operations (OPNAV) staff. 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.

The U.S. Naval Academy’s temporary superintendent is Rear Adm. Fred Kacher. Kacher has been nominated to lead the Japan-based U.S. 7th Fleet.

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 violates the Hyde Amendment that bans the use of federal funds for abortions, a charge the Pentagon denies. So far, more than 300 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

Get USNI News updates delivered to your inbox