WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Friday announced he will nominate Admiral Lisa Franchetti to lead the US Navy, which would make her the first woman to hold the position and to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
But it is unclear if the Senate will confirm her by the time her predecessor leaves office, as a Republican lawmaker is stalling more than 200 senior military nominations to protest the Pentagon's decision to assist troops who have to travel to receive abortions.
"Franchetti will bring 38 years of dedicated service to our nation as a commissioned officer, including in her current role of Vice Chief of Naval Operations," Biden said in a statement.
"She is the second woman ever to achieve the rank of four-star admiral in the United States Navy, and when confirmed, she will again make history as the first woman to serve as the Chief of Naval Operations and on the Joint Chiefs of Staff," he said.
Franchetti has served on a series of surface vessels, commanding a guided missile destroyer, a destroyer squadron and two carrier strike groups.
She was deputy commander of US naval forces in Europe and as well as in Africa, and deputy chief of naval operations for warfighting development, among other positions. She became vice chief of naval operations in September 2022.
Admiral Mike Gilday is due to complete his four-year term as head of the Navy next month, but Franchetti's confirmation will likely be held up by Senator Tommy Tuberville, who has been delaying the approval of military nominees for months.
The senator opposes the Pentagon's decision to allow service members to take administrative absences to receive "non-covered reproductive health care," and to establish travel allowances to help them cover costs - policies put in place after the Supreme Court struck down the nationwide right to abortion last year.
Though the Senate - which must sign off on nominations of military officers - can still vote on them individually, Tuberville's "hold" means they cannot be quickly approved in groups by unanimous consent.
Biden took aim at Tuberville in the statement, saying that delaying the approval of the nominees "is not only wrong - it is dangerous."
"In this moment of rapidly evolving security environments and intense competition, he is risking our ability to ensure that the United States Armed Forces remain the greatest fighting force in the history of the world. And his Republican colleagues in the Senate know it," the president said.
Gilday would hand over to Franchetti in her capacity as his deputy in the event she is not confirmed when he leaves office, mirroring the current situation in the Marine Corps.
General Eric Smith - the assistant commandant - has been nominated to head the service, but has yet to be confirmed and has been serving in an acting capacity since July 10.
Other top officers are also due to leave office in the coming months, including Chief of Staff of the Army General James McConville and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley.