President Joe Biden on Friday nominated Adm. Lisa Franchetti to serve as the next chief of naval operations, putting her in line to become the first woman ever to serve as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Franchetti, who has served 38 years in the military, currently serves as vice chief of naval operations. She is only the second woman ever to reach the rank of four-star admiral in service history.
Friday’s historic nomination of the first woman to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff was muted by the White House’s acknowledgement that the appointment is likely to be sidelined by ongoing political fights on Capitol Hill over the military’s abortion access policy.
In a statement Friday, Biden praised Franchetti’s “extensive expertise in both the operational and policy arenas” as the impetus for her nomination. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a statement said Franchetti’s nomination as the first woman on the Joint Chiefs of staff will allow her to “continue to inspire all of us.”
Biden also announced the nomination of Adm. Samuel Paparo — who in recent weeks had been rumored to be in line for the CNO post — as commander of Indo-Pacific Command, and Vice Adm. Stephen Koehler as commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet.
“These two officers both have significant experience serving in the Indo-Pacific, where our military strength is critical to ensuring the security and stability of this vital region of the world,” Biden said in a statement.
All three are expected to face confirmation hearings before the Senate later this fall. However, timing of a confirmation vote is less certain because of an ongoing hold by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., over the Defense Department’s abortion policies.
Under rules put in place last fall, troops stationed in states where abortion is limited or illegal can be granted leave time and travel stipends to help cover the cost of moving across state lines for abortion services. Tuberville and a host of Republican lawmakers have decried the policy as illegal.
That showdown has stalled more than 250 senior military confirmations over the last four months, with no resolution in sight.
Earlier this week, Defense Department officials briefed senators on the policy in an attempt to convince Tuberville to drop his holds. But exiting the closed-door briefing, Tuberville said he was unimpressed and unmoved.
On Friday, Biden blasted Tuberville’s tactics.
“It has long been an article of faith in this country that supporting our servicemembers and their families, and providing for the strength of our national defense, transcends politics,” he said in a statement. “What Sen. Tuberville is doing 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 Senate is scheduled to break for a late-summer recess next week. Franchetti, Paparo and Koehler are likely to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee to answer questions about their new roles sometime in September, when lawmakers return.
Megan Eckstein contributed to this story.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.