Lisa Franchetti Becomes First Woman to Lead Military Service

We finally have a Chief of Naval Operations but the crisis in the top ranks continues.

Stars and Stripes (“Senate confirms 1st female leader of Navy, new Air Force top general and Marine Corps 2nd-in-command“):

The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm the first woman to lead the Navy and serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a new top general for the Air Force and an assistant Marine Corps commandant as anger intensified over a Republican senator’s monthslong hold on military promotions.

Adm. Lisa Franchetti was approved as chief of naval operations in a 95-1 vote after serving in the position for months on an acting basis while also performing the duties of her former role as vice chief. Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., a former Army captain, was the only senator to oppose Franchetti’s promotion.

“At every step of her career, Admiral Franchetti has been a trailblazer and a team builder who focuses on the mission, leads by example and gets the job done,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “She is an inspiration to many and someone who will always put the security of our nation, and all who defend it, first.”

Franchetti is not the first woman service chief, an honor that goes to Admiral Linda Fagan, who became Commandant of the Coast Guard last May. While the Coast Guard is one of the armed services, though, it is not a military service and its leader is not one of the Joint Chiefs.

This milestone is overshadowed by the broader context:

Her historic appointment marked the second time since February that the Senate has individually confirmed senior military nominees affected by a nine-month hold on appointments and promotions by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.

Gen. David Allvin was approved as Air Force chief of staff in a 95-1 vote, with Marshall again voting no. Allvin also had been serving a dual role of acting chief of staff of the service as well as vice chief due to the logjam created by Tuberville’s hold. Allvin’s predecessor, Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown, was promoted to chairman of the Joint Chiefs in September.

Senators unanimously voted, 86-0, to approve Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney for promotion to four-star general and appointment as Marine Corps assistant commandant. He was nominated for the service’s second-highest job in July.

The promotion of the three senior officers took on new urgency this week after Gen. Eric Smith, the Marine Corps commandant, reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday. Tuberville’s hold, an act of protest against the Pentagon’s abortion access policy, had left the service’s second-in-command position empty.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Smith’s hospitalization coupled with Israel’s war in Gaza has created a crisis. He long resisted holding individual votes on nominees, which are normally approved in large batches, but made an exception in September to fill three seats on the Joint Chiefs.

He again moved to break with standard procedure this week after Tuberville and other Republicans tried to force floor votes on Mahoney, Franchetti and Allvin.

“Patience is wearing thin on both sides of the aisle over the senator’s actions,” Schumer said Thursday.

Frustration with Tuberville’s hold publicly spilled into the Republican ranks on Wednesday night as several Republican senators attempted to bring forward the nominations of 61 of the nearly 400 impacted officers. Each request was shot down by Tuberville, though he has repeatedly said he would not stand in the way of individual votes on nominees.

Smith had been performing the jobs of Assistant Commandant and Commandant for months before his heart attack. Whether the stress of doing so was a contributing factor is likely unknowable but he’s an extremely fit 58-year-old.

Franchetti, too, has been performing the top two jobs in her service and presumably will continue to do so, as there is no Senate-confirmed Vice. All that has changed is that she now has the full authority of the job she has been doing.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Charley in Cleveland says:

    Tuberville, like Hershel Walker, is astoundingly unfit for any public office, but, like Walker, had name recognition because of football. The behind the scenes GOPers were happy to find a dolt who would do as he was told, but now they have a bit of a rogue on their hands. Stubborn and stupid is a deadly combination. The old saw applies here: elect clowns, expect a circus.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    Anyone who follows my comments here knows I am the grouchiest of grouchy old men when it comes to college “amateur” sports. I bow to no one in my ability to be “that guy” when the subject comes up. So you might think I would be glad to have such an absolutely textbook example of what I consider the typical College Football Coach – as arrogant as he is stupid, as certain as he is wrong on virtually everything outside of some child’s game, enabled by a coterie of breathless fans all aflutter to be in the presence of imagined greatness – but I’m not. It’s one thing when they stay inside the “student athlete” scam zone and merely sell worthless trinkets to credulous fans. But it’s entirely different when there are so many of these gullible fans they put one of these mediocrities into a position of power. It is a tragedy when the whole country suffers because of “BAMA!” or the equivalent.

  3. Scott says:

    Once more I have to remind everyone that Tommy Tuberville is a POS and always has been. From past OTBs.

  4. CSK says:


    Tuberville got 60.1% of the vote in his election, His Senate biography, in which he’s called “Coach,” is entirely about his college football career. He couldn’t name the three branches of government.

    The is what Alabamians wanted to represent them.

  5. CSK says:

    Oh, and Tuberville claims he worked just as hard as a football coach as any Marine commandant.

  6. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: @CSK: To beat a dead horse, this is as much about our systems as about the preferences of the electorate of my erstwhile home state. Wikipedia:

    On March 3, 2020, Tuberville received 33.4% of the vote in the Republican primary, ahead of former United States senator and former attorney general Jeff Sessions, who received 31.6%. Because neither candidate won over 50% of the vote, a runoff election ensued.

    On March 10, ahead of the runoff election, Trump endorsed Tuberville.[70] Trump had been angered by Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections when Sessions was U.S. attorney general.[65] In May 2020, Trump called Sessions “slime” for this decision.[71] In campaign ads, Tuberville attacked Sessions for not being “man enough to stand with President Trump when things got tough.”[72] In the July 14 runoff, Tuberville defeated Sessions with 60.7% of the vote.

    As the Republican nominee, Tuberville was heavily favored to win the election.[73] He was endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee, America’s largest anti-abortion organization.[74] On November 3, he defeated Jones with 60.1% of the vote.

    So, a third of those who voted in Alabama’s Republican primary preferred Tuberville to an array of choices. Narrowed down to a choice between Tuberville and Sessions, three-fifths or Republican run-off participants preferred Tuberville. Alabama is a heavily Republican state, so, not shockingly, a Republican nominee who wasn’t a credibly accused serial creep (Roy Moore) was going to win.

    If Alabama instead had something like California’s system, all of the candidates for Senator would have competed in an election with the top two going to a run-off. That would produce a much more representative choice.

    Ditto if Alabama used something like Maine’s instant-runoff, ranked-choice system.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @CSK: Honestly, that’s probably true. College football coaches, especially at the highest level, work insanely long hours essentially year-round. It’s a lot more than just game planning, which would be a 60-hour week in and of itself. Recruiting never ends and it has gotten much worse in the era of the transfer portal, as coaches have to essentially keep re-recruiting their own players to keep them. And that’s to say nothing of all the promotional work, media interviews, and whatnot.

    Marine Commandant is a more important job and the stakes are much higher, of course. But it wouldn’t shock me if Nick Saban or Kirby Smart didn’t work more hours.

  8. Matt Bernius says:

    As a side note, it’s been a very up-and-down week for the Town of Pittsford NY. The Admiral is a graduate of the same school district here in the Rochester Suburbs that produced the Cornell Student being charged with making threats to the campus’s Jewish students.

  9. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    Too many people put an absurd value on the number of hours worked, without regard to productivity or even accomplishing something.

    BTW, farm workers, janitors, and others in menial jobs work very long hours and are far more productive. They still get paid very little.

  10. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    this is as much about our systems as about the preferences of the electorate of my erstwhile home state

    I would never deny that changes in the electoral systems can result in a different candidate winning. And it may be true in this case, but I’m skeptical. Tuberville won both the plurality in the primary and then the run off. And while it is true that significantly fewer voters participate in the primary as opposed to the general, I don’t see how rewinding the clock 50 years and giving party leaders much more say in candidate selection would have made any difference in this case, since it was party leaders who actively recruited him to run.

    Tuberville is who the majority of Alabamians voted for and they seem quite satisfied with him. It’s who the financial backers of the national and state Republican party wanted, and it’s who the party leaders wanted. Is there a significant minority of voters that recognizes his incompetence and the damage he is doing? Sure. But another name for “significant minority” is “election losers”.

  11. CSK says:


    Apparently for Tuberville fans, his having been a football coach qualifies him to do anything.

  12. gVOR10 says:

    @James Joyner: I don’t know about hours worked, but as a coach Tuberville got paid a whole lot better than the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

  13. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy: @gVOR10: I don’t think I’ve ever asserted that pay is mostly a function of hours worked.

  14. Tony W says:

    @James Joyner:

    Alabama is a heavily Republican state

    If Alabama instead had something like California’s (top two primary) system

    You state the second bit as if it was independent, and not a direct result of the first one. There is no desire to have an outcome that the majority of the population desires. The system is deliberate.

  15. EddieInCA says:

    @James Joyner:

    But it wouldn’t shock me if Nick Saban or Kirby Smart didn’t work more hours.

    It would shock me. They all have highly paid Coordinators and Assistant Coaches, who do most of the grunt work of recruiting, creating game plans, etc.

    l work long hours, but my Assistant, and my #2 work longer hours than I do, as do the 1st and 2nd Assistant Directors. I would be surprised if Tuberville, Saban or Smart actually work longer hours than their top coordinators and assistants.

  16. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    Sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that you did.

    The concept of hours worked is not a universally useful metric. It can be for some jobs. Take an assembly line. the longer the hours worked, the higher the daily production. Much the same goes for farm labor, taxi drivers, etc.

    But even these might be misleading. If farm workers take, say, six hours to clear weeds from a field, does that reflect productivity or inadequate equipment for the job?

    Often the time worked reflects inadequate tools, poor management, and other things.

  17. JKB says:

    This is terrible. Imagine a senator holding firm that the legislative branch should do its constitutional duty to advise and confirm rather than rubber stamp the unelected career bureaucrats. Why it’s “unDemocratic”.

    All Tuberville is doing is holding the Senate to the Constitution instead of going along with abrogation by laziness. And let’s face it, Schumer could call a vote to remove the ability of a single senator to put a hold on the laziness of the rest. But the others want that power for when they’ve a partisan issue.

  18. gVOR10 says:

    @JKB: You know, I’m willing to believe you believe Tuberville is doing this out of some dedication to the Constitution, which he likely has never read. See above reference to his not knowing what the three branches of government are. More likely: A) He has a religious belief that abortion is evil and therefore must be stopped, damn majority opinion. And B) An aide explained he could do a hold and the holds are polling well with AL GOP primary voters.

    And you’re right that others want to maintain the privilege for themselves. But it isn’t laziness, it’s sheer impracticality.

  19. just nutha says:

    @James Joyner: I think an instant runoff would have created the same result as a second primary runoff. But it would have been faster and cheaper, if that’s important.

  20. Jay L Gischer says:

    @JKB: So. The votes that were just held went 95-1. We might anticipate, I think, that other votes on similar military nominations might have similar votes behind them. Consequently, most Senators, whether Republican or Democrat, would probably prefer to handle these promotions via unanimous consent.

    And yes, many of those Republican senators probably aren’t happy with the military policy, but they know they don’t have the votes and would rather spend time on something else. Tuberville is tilting at windmills, trying for something he will never get, and making a grand show of it, at least in some eyes. These are theatrics which will never change policy, and they come at the cost of other functioning prerogatives.

    I have seen, “I will be as obnoxious as I can until you give me what I want” play out many times in my personal life, particularly while playing a board game, such as Monopoly. It rarely plays out well.

  21. Matt Bernius says:


    And let’s face it, Schumer could call a vote to remove the ability of a single senator to put a hold on the laziness of the rest. But the others want that power for when they’ve a partisan issue.

    100% agree with this.

    As with the filibuster, this could (and should) go away via a rules change. And unfortunately, like some many other issues (looking at you House membership cap and post-1974 filibuster), neither party seems willing to risk losing any power in order to enable a more functional government.

  22. al Ameda says:


    Tuberville got 60.1% of the vote in his election, His Senate biography, in which he’s called “Coach,” is entirely about his college football career. He couldn’t name the three branches of government.
    The is what Alabamians wanted to represent them.

    About 4 months ago Liz Cheney remarked, paraphrasing, that the problem we have in America today is that we’re electing too many idiots.

    I would add to that, that I now believe that the most of those voters know full well that they’re voting for these idiots. I definitely blame voters for the low grade idiocy and dysfunction that we see in Congress and in statehouses, in Washington and across the country.

  23. DK says:


    Imagine a senator holding firm that the legislative branch should do its constitutional duty…

    Ha! Imagine actually believing Traitor Tuberville is deliberately weakening the US military because he cares about the constitution. Lol

    As with the hold on diplomatic nominees by Sens. Paul, Cruz, and Hawley, Sen. Tuberville is a national security threat — aiding the world’s anti-democratic tyrants and terrorists, in service of the conservative impulse to force their extreme religious views onto everyone and enslave women with forced birth. He is person of low intelligence (outside of football), worse character, and he is manifestly unqualified to be a US Senator.

  24. gVOR10 says:


    Sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that you did.

    @James Joyner: Nor did I. I simply meant that on the off chance Tuberville ever actually worked harder than a Marine Corps Commandant without an assistant, Tuberville was very well compensated for his effort compared to the Commandant, who wasn’t doing it for the money.

  25. Kathy says:


    I appreciate those who read the trollish ravings so we don’t have to.

    But I wonder, does any part of the duties of the legislative branch involve drafting and passing legislation?

    I mean, couldn’t the coach propose a law to forbid the Dept. of Defense, or the Federal government for that matter, from covering any travel expenses for abortion purposes? I don’t ask what the chances of such a law passing are, or what happens to snowballs in Hell, but whether or not the coach has the ability to try.

  26. Justin says:

    That’s what you get for electing a former Auburn coach. Joking aside, it says a lot how conservative voters have shifted in my former state. And for the record, my late father was a lifelong Alabama fan and voted Democrat for his last three decades.

  27. anjin-san says:


    All Tuberville is doing is holding the Senate to the Constitution instead of going along with abrogation by laziness.

    All he is doing is making Putin’s day. Of course, he is hardly the first Republican to do that…

  28. Fog says:

    Anyone who thinks Tuberville gives a rat’s patoot about abortion policy or the Constitution is kidding themselves. The real problem is not one of complexity but of complexion.