Biden picks female admiral to lead Navy. She’d be 1st woman to be a military service chief

A woman in camouflage attire smiles.
President Biden has nominated Adm. Lisa Franchetti to lead the Navy. She would be the first woman to be a U.S. military service chief and the first female member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
(Jim Cleveland / Associated Press)

President Biden has chosen Adm. Lisa Franchetti to lead the Navy, a senior administration official said Friday. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to be a U.S. military service chief.

Biden’s decision to tap Franchetti, an admiral with broad command and executive experience, as chief of naval operations goes against the recommendation of his Pentagon chief. But he is selecting an officer whom insiders had considered the top choice for the job. Franchetti, the Navy’s current vice chief of operations, would become the first female member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III recommended that Biden select Adm. Samuel Paparo, the current commander of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet for the post, several U.S. officials said last month. But instead, the administration official said Biden is nominating Paparo to lead the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the nomination has not been made public.


The administration official said Biden chose Franchetti based on the broad scope of her experience at sea and ashore, including a number of high-level policy and administrative jobs that give her deep knowledge in budgeting and running the department.

At the same time, the official acknowledged that Biden understands the historic nature of the nomination and believes that Franchetti will be an inspiration to sailors, both men and women.

It’s the first of what could be many top-level military promotions held up by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) over his disagreement with Defense Department policy on abortion.

July 10, 2023

Franchetti’s nomination will join the list of hundreds of military moves that are being held up by Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama. He is blocking confirmation of military officers’ promotions in protest of a Defense Department policy that pays for travel when a service member has to travel from their assigned base to obtain an abortion or other reproductive care.

She is slated to serve as the acting chief beginning next month when Adm. Michael Gilday, the current top Navy officer, retires as planned.

Several woman have served as military service secretaries as political appointees, but never as their top uniformed officer. A woman, Adm. Linda L. Fagan, is currently the commandant of the Coast Guard. She, however, is not a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The president, said the official, believes Franchetti is the right person for the job and that moving Paparo to head the Pacific Command also puts the right person in that post.


The House has passed a defense bill that provides a pay raise for service members but strays from traditional military policy with Republican add-ons.

July 14, 2023

The official declined to comment on Austin’s recommendation. But news last month that the Defense chief had recommended Paparo stunned many in the Pentagon because it was long believed that Franchetti was in line for the top Navy job.

A surface warfare officer, she has commanded at all levels, heading the U.S. 6th Fleet and U.S. Naval Forces Korea. She was the second woman ever to be promoted to four-star admiral, and she did multiple deployments, including as commander of a Navy destroyer and two stints as an aircraft carrier strike group commander.

Paparo, who if confirmed would replace Adm. John Aquilino, is a naval aviator and a Top Gun graduate with more than 6,000 flight hours in Navy fighter jets and 1,100 landings on aircraft carriers. A Pennsylvania native, he graduated from Villanova University and was commissioned into the Navy in 1987.

Prior to his Pacific tour, he was commander of naval forces in the Middle East, based in Bahrain, and also previously served as director of operations at U.S. Central Command in Florida.

The administration official said Biden will also nominate Vice Adm. James Kilby to be the vice chief of the Navy and tap Vice Adm. Stephen Koehler to head the Pacific Fleet.