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Austin Praises Outgoing Chief of Naval Operations

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III today underscored Adm. Michael Gilday's dedication to advancing American sea power at a critical time for global security during Gilday's relinquishment of office ceremony at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

Austin said that throughout Gilday's 38-year career and four-year tenure as the Navy's top admiral, he has led key advances in the nation's sea service with "vigor, expertise and foresight."

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III speaks from a stage.
Austin Remarks
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III speaks at the relinquishment of office ceremony for Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael M. Gilday at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md., August 14, 2023. Navy Adm. Lisa Franchetti, the vice chief of naval operations, will become the acting CNO. Her nomination to succeed Gilday is on hold in the Senate.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 230814-D-TT977-0150A

"Ladies and gentlemen, to tackle the national-security challenges of the 21st century, we need our Navy more than ever," Austin said. "It's especially vital in today's world."

"We rely on our Navy to sail, fly and operate wherever international law allows," he said. "We rely on our Navy to project American power and to protect American interests. We rely on our Navy to bolster our unmatched network of allies and partners, from the South China Sea to the Caribbean. And we rely on our Navy to deter conflict and to keep the peace."

The Navy's global reach is critical, Austin said, for maintaining an "open, stable and peaceful" 21st century.

"And that's exactly what Admiral Gilday has been focused on for the past four years as our CNO," he said.

A man in uniform shakes hands with another man in uniform while boarding a ship.
USS Higgins
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday boards the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins, July 26, 2023. Gilday previously commanded the USS Higgins.
Photo By: Navy Seaman Alexandria Esteban
VIRIN: 230726-N-CV021-1023H

Austin underscored Gilday's focus on readiness as CNO — highlighting his data-driven reforms to improve maintenance, speed up shipyard repairs, and invest in supply chains to ensure new parts get to the fleet faster and more reliably.

The secretary also highlighted Gilday's focus on modernizing the fleet, noting the deployment under his tenure of the first-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, the largest and most technologically advanced warship in the world.

Gilday has also been instrumental in deepening the Navy's integration across the joint services and improving interoperability with U.S. allies and partners, Austin said.

Under his leadership, the Navy has played a key role in deepening the United States' integration with Australia and the United Kingdom to deter conflict in the Indo-Pacific under the AUKUS partnership.

A man in uniform and a woman in civilian attire descend a staircase flanked by men and women in uniform.
Adm. Mike Gilday
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday leaves the Pentagon for the last time as CNO with his wife, Linda, Aug. 11, 2023. Gilday served as the 32nd CNO from August 2019 to August 2023.
Photo By: Navy Chief Petty Officer Amanda R. Gray
VIRIN: 230811-N-UD469-1087H

In addition to Gilday's accomplishments as CNO, Austin said the admiral's career has been defined by his commitment to advancing a culture of respect throughout the ranks.

"Mike, you are a sailor's sailor, through and through," Austin said. "And I'm reminded of something that you said here in May on Commissioning Day. You said that you've always found that sailors just want to be led well and treated with respect.

"And that's been your hallmark, Mike, from ensign to admiral," he continued. "You've always led superbly, and you've always treated everyone with the respect that they deserve."

Adm. Lisa Franchetti has been nominated to serve as acting chief of naval operations, but her confirmation remains on hold.

A woman in uniform speaks from a lectern displaying the U.S. Naval Academy crest.
Lisa Franchetti
Navy Adm. Lisa Franchetti delivers remarks as she assumes the duties of acting chief of naval operations from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael M. Gilday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Aug. 14, 2023.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 230814-D-TT977-1311

Franchetti, who has served as the vice chief of naval operations since September 2022, would become the first female CNO and the first woman on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, if confirmed.

Hers is among more than 300 military confirmations being delayed as part of a blanket hold in the Senate since February.

Those awaiting Senate confirmation include Marine Corps Gen. Eric M. Smith, who last month took over as acting commandant of the Marine Corps, and Army Gen. Randy A. George, who took over this month as acting chief of staff of the Army.

It's the first time in decades that any one of the branches has been led by an acting service chief, and the first time in history that three have operated without confirmed leadership at the same time.

A woman and man in uniform shake hands as a man in a suit looks on.
Assuming Responsibilities
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, center, looks on as Adm. Lisa Franchetti, left, assumes responsibilities as acting chief of naval operations during a relinquishment of office ceremony for Adm. Michael M. Gilday at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Aug. 14, 2023.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 230814-N-KB401-1730H

Austin underscored the negative impacts the holds are having across the services.

"Smooth and swift" leadership transitions are "central to the defense of the United States and to the full strength of the most lethal fighting force in history," he said.

"This is unprecedented," he said. "It is unnecessary. And it is unsafe.

"This sweeping hold is undermining America's military readiness," he said. "It's hindering our ability to retain our very best officers. And it's upending the lives of far too many American military families. Our troops deserve better. Our military families deserve better. Our allies and partners deserve better. And our national security deserves better."

Austin Speaks at Chief of Naval Operations Relinquishment of Office Ceremony

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