President Biden has overruled the Pentagon and chosen Adm. Lisa Franchetti to lead the Navy, making her the first woman, if she's confirmed, 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, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who recommended the president select Adm. Samuel Paparo, the current commander of the Navy's Pacific Fleet, according to multiple reports.
In a statement on Friday, Biden noted how Franchetti is an unprecedented choice for such a high-level military post due to her sex, adding that she's the second woman ever to achieve the rank of four-star admiral in the Navy.
"As our next chief of naval operations, Admiral Lisa 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 continued. "Throughout her career, Admiral Franchetti has demonstrated extensive expertise in both the operational and policy arenas."
During her tenure, Franchetti has commanded two aircraft carrier strike groups in the Pacific and served as the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea, deputy chief of naval operations for warfighting development, and director for strategy, plans, and policy of the Joint Staff. As head of 6th Fleet, she oversaw the Navy's response to Syrian President Bashar al Assad's use of chemical weapons.
Despite having a different recommendation, Austin praised Biden's selection, saying, "I'm very proud that Admiral Franchetti has been nominated to be the first woman chief of naval operations and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where she will continue to inspire all of us."
Biden nominated Austin's preferred choice, Paparo, to be the commander of Indo-Pacific Command. Meanwhile, the president also tapped Vice Adm. James Kilby to be the vice chief of the Navy and Vice Adm. Stephen Koehler to head the Pacific Fleet.
Franchetti will likely join several other general and flag officers whose confirmations are being held up by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala, in protest of a Defense Department policy that pays for travel when a service member or their dependents leave the state to get an abortion. Biden slammed Tuberville's protest in his statement.
"What Senator Tuberville is doing is not only wrong — it is dangerous," said Biden. "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."
Franchetti marks another first for the Biden administration's Pentagon, which has had the first Black secretary of defense and the first female Army secretary.
Biden has also nominated Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If Brown is confirmed to serve along with Austin at the top, it would mark the first time the Pentagon's two most senior leaders are Black men.
The White House has argued diversity gives the U.S. a "strategic advantage," while Republican critics have expressed concern that the Biden administration is more concerned about being "woke" than ensuring the military's effectiveness.