Lisa Franchetti to be First Woman Military Service Chief

President Biden has again made history.

AP (“Biden picks female admiral to lead Navy. She’d be first woman on Joint Chiefs of Staff“):

President Joe Biden has chosen Adm. Lisa Franchetti to lead the Navy, an unprecedented choice that, if she is confirmed, will make her the first woman to be a Pentagon service chief and the first female member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Biden’s decision goes against the recommendation of his Pentagon chief. But Franchetti, the current vice chief of operations for the Navy, has broad command and executive experience and was considered by insiders to be the top choice for the job.

In a statement Friday, Biden noted the historical significance of her selection and said “throughout her career, Admiral Franchetti has demonstrated extensive expertise in both the operational and policy arenas.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recommended that Biden select Adm. Samuel Paparo, the current commander of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, several U.S. officials said last month. But instead, Biden is nominating Paparo to lead U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

A senior 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 historical nature of the nomination and believes that Franchetti will be an inspiration to sailors, both men and women. The official spoke earlier on condition of anonymity because the nomination had not been made public.

At this level, there are simply more extraordinarily qualified candidates than there are slots. Franchetti was probably chosen because she’s a woman. But she’s no token hire. She is currently in the #2 post in the Navy:

Her operational tours include auxiliaries officer and first division officer on USS Shenandoah (AD 44); navigator and jumboization coordinator onboard USS Monongahela (AO 178); operations officer on USS Moosbrugger (DD 980); combat systems officer and chief staff officer for Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2; executive officer of USS Stout (DDG 55); and assistant surface operations officer on USS George Washington Strike Group. She commanded USS Ross (DDG 71) and DESRON-21, embarked on USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). She also served as commander of Pacific Partnership 2010, embarked on USNS Mercy (T-AH 19).

Ashore, Franchetti’s assignments include commander, Naval Reserve Center Central Point, Oregon; aide to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations; protocol officer for the commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet; 4th Battalion officer at the U.S. Naval Academy; division chief, Joint Concept Development and Experimentation, on the Joint Staff, J7; deputy director of International Engagement and executive assistant to N3/N5 on the Navy staff; and military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy.

Her flag assignments include commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea; commander, Carrier Strike Group 9; commander, Carrier Strike Group 15; chief of staff, Strategy, Plans and Policy (J-5) Joint Staff; commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO; deputy commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe; deputy commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa; Joint Force Maritime Component Commander; deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Development, N7; and director for Strategy, Plans and Policy (J-5), Joint Staff. Franchetti assumed the duties as Vice Chief of Naval Operations Sept. 2, 2022.

Still, there’s no doubting the historical nature of the appointment:

Several women 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 Staff. The Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, not the Pentagon.

The Coast Guard is both a uniformed service and an armed service; it is not a military service.

Biden has already made history with the first Black Secretary of Defense and has appointed the second Black Chairman, General CQ Brown, who himself was the first Black service secretary. Both Brown and Franchetti will have to wait, along with Marine Commandant nominee Eric Smith, for the Senate to get past the months-long hold Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville has on high-level military appointments.

As an aside, Paparo has been nominated instead to head Indo-Pacific Command, the most prestigious and important operational command post in the military under the current strategy. He’ll be just fine.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Military Affairs, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
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. Mikey says:

    jumboization coordinator

    I had to look up what “jumboization is–it’s a method of making a ship bigger by cutting it in half cross-wise and inserting a section. That’s quite a project.

  2. Will says:

    Franchetti is largely seen within the Navy as a no-brainer choice, especially since she will default into the position anyway due to the Tuberville hold. She is no diversity hire and is more-qualified (not equally qualified) for the job than pretty much any other candidate.
    As to SECDEF’s recommendation of Paparo, the stink of it is that that was about making INDOPACOM available for the Army. POTUS didn’t buy it.

  3. Slugger says:

    “Chosen because she is a woman.” Why should this job be reserved for males and specifically for white males? It does not involve feats of strength; heavy lifting is not needed. She will not be boarding an enemy vessel by swinging from a rope with a cutlass held in her teeth. Most of us men are not insecure snowflakes who need to be reassured by not taking orders from a woman.

  4. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    I don’t know because I’m only a Luddite, but it seems to me that President Biden has picked a best from a plethora of best candidates. More power to him for picking commanding officers who are well respected by their peers and have demonstrated ability.

    However, I have no doubt that Coach Tuberville will continue his hold, and decline to approve her for a position where she will lead Real Men™ //s//

  5. mattbernius says:

    James, for those of us who don’t come from a military background, can you unpack this commentary:

    The Coast Guard is both a uniformed service and an armed service; it is not a military service.

    I had always understood the Coast Gaurd to be military and have heard the Coast Guard Academy referred to as being a “Military Academy.” I’d love to understand more about the different distinctions.

  6. Will says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite:

    Actually, before this announcement, ADM Franchetti’s ascension from VCNO to CNO was a (no doubt unintended) consequence of Coach Tuberville’s stunt. Because she’s VCNO, and current CNO Gilday will soon be statutorily required to retire, she was going to automatically become “acting” CNO (and therefore the first woman on the JCS) anyway, and in spite of SECDEF’s official recommendation of ADM Paparo. This move makes it official, and it makes sense with or without Coach in the equation. There’s nothing Coach can do about this one.

  7. Jim Brown 32 says:

    We need Paparo in the fight…not managing the provision of Maritime forces to the fight. If he thinks he has some gas left in the tank after leading Indo-Pacom…that would be the time to have him run the Navy.

  8. MarkedMan says:

    I’ve always thought it funny that people who completely accept the concept of “turns” can get their panties in a twist when the turn is something new. In this blog and elsewhere I’ve heard it said that this or that branch of a service, or service itself, is due to be picked for a higher spot. So the concept that you select someone not just for their competence (the minimum) but also for the message it sends and how it affects morale is completely accepted. But applying that to a new type of “turn” is seemingly a step too far.

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Slugger: I just think Biden is trying to make history. But, as noted in the OP, there are more highly qualified candidates than there are jobs.

    @mattbernius: It’s more a technicality than anything else. The military services are in the Defense Department whereas the Coast Guard is in DHS (and before that Treasury). Their primary role is maritime safety and law enforcement. Posse comitatus does not apply to them.

    @Flat Earth Luddite: I’ve by and large liked Biden’s national security picks. Austin as SECDEF came out of seemingly nowhere and violates tradition but he’s been solid.

  10. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: I think we can simultaneously think she was highly qualifed and that this was a diversity hire. Indeed, we both seem to be making that point.

  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite: That’s “Coach Senator Tuberville,” but otherwise, spot on.

  12. mattbernius says:

    Thanks @James Joyner! I had not thought about posse comitatus and that makes total sense

  13. mattbernius says:

    Thanks @James Joyner! I had not thought about posse comitatus and that makes total sense

  14. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Sorry ’bout that, Chief! I’d read elsewhere that he prefers to be referred to as “Coach” rather than “Senator.” Apparently in his world, Coach is a higher calling.

  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite: Well, the real higher calling is GOAT, but he ain’t never gon be that. But how many can say there were BOTH “Senator” AND “Coach?” Pretty strong one of a kind.

    ETA: But yeah, preferring “Coach” to “Senator” is kinda telling.

  16. Andy says:

    Looks like a good choice. Nice to see she’s not a ring knocker. And she started in auxiliaries at a time when women couldn’t serve on combatants, so she saw that transition early in her career, quickly moved to surface warfare and excelled.

    She does have a tough job ahead of her – the Navy is in a difficult position and she will inherit the legacy of a lot of bad decisions.