WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden named Admiral Lisa Franchetti to lead the Navy on Friday, a move that would break the gender barrier in the U.S. military by making her the first woman to command the Navy and become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Biden’s decision comes as a surprise. Pentagon officials expected the nomination to go to Admiral Samuel Paparo, who leads the Navy in the Pacific and has experience dealing with the growing challenge from China.
Still, Franchetti, who is currently the Navy’s vice chief of operations, was among the candidates who would be vying for the job.
In a statement, Biden noted Franchetti’s 38 years of experience.
“Throughout her career, Admiral Franchetti has demonstrated extensive operational and political expertise,” Biden said in a statement, noting that she was only the second woman to achieve the rank of four-star admiral in the U.S. Navy.
Franchetti is not the first woman to lead a branch of the US military. Last year, Biden selected Admiral Linda Fagan to lead the US Coast Guard.
But the Coast Guard is not officially part of the Department of Defense (DoD) and instead reports to the Department of Homeland Security. Franchetti would become the first woman to lead DoD military service as a chief.
(Reporting by Steve Holland, Phil Stewart and Jasper Ward; Writing by Phil Stewart and Rami Ayyub; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Sharon Singleton)