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US Navy gets fourth new leader in six months

Kenneth Braithwaite has been confirmed by the US Senate as the next Secretary of the Navy - Al Drago / ©AFP
Kenneth Braithwaite has been confirmed by the US Senate as the next Secretary of the Navy - Al Drago / ©AFP

(AFP)

The US Senate on Thursday confirmed the Navy’s fourth new leader in six months — an avid supporter of President Donald Trump who will lead the service as it grapples with morale problems amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Kenneth Braithwaite, a retired rear admiral who currently serves as the US ambassador to Norway, was approved as the next Secretary of the Navy in the upper chamber in a voice vote.

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During his confirmation hearing earlier this month, Braithwaite made a point of emphasizing his smooth relations with the administration.

His confirmation follows the tumultuous tenures of several recent Navy leaders.

“While I recognize the challenges for all they are, I am ready,” the 60-year-old former pilot said.

“It saddens me to say that the Department of the Navy is in rough waters due to many factors, but primarily the failure of leadership,” he said.

The Navy was recently rocked by a crippling outbreak of coronavirus on a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt. 

The ship’s captain, Brett Crozier, was removed in early April after breaking his chain of command to make the outbreak public.

Then-acting Navy secretary Thomas Modly resigned days later, after a ranting, profanity-laced speech to the Roosevelt crew in which he accused Crozier of “betrayal.”

In November, then-Navy secretary Richard Spencer was fired after he pushed back against Trump’s protection of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who had been charged with war crimes and convicted of lesser charges.

Braithwaite also mentioned a massive bribery scandal dubbed the “Fat Leonard” case and a 2017 ship collision that killed 17 people as other challenges for the military branch.

Braithwaite held a number of positions in the Navy, including spokesman, before leaving the armed services in 1993 to join the private sector. 

In 2016, he participated in Trump’s campaign in Pennsylvania and was part of the president’s transition team at the Pentagon.

He replaces acting Navy Secretary James McPherson.

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