The Senate on Thursday confirmed Kenneth Braithwaite, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be Navy secretary, filling one of the most pressing vacancies among the senior ranks at the Pentagon.
The relatively unknown Braithwaite — Trump’s ambassador to Norway and a retired rear admiral — was approved by voice vote before senators left Capitol Hill for the Memorial Day break. He won the support of both parties with a pledge to get the Navy back on track after a series of missteps, including the service’s handling of the spread of the coronavirus in the fleet.
Braithwaite’s nomination had been in limbo for months after Trump tweeted in November that he was the pick to replace Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who was fired as over his handling of the war crimes case of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher.
Getting a permanent secretary on the job took on new urgency as the Navy’s handling of the coronavirus’ spread aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt resulted in acting Secretary Thomas Modly’s resignation last month. James McPherson, a retired rear admiral and the undersecretary of the Army, has filled the job since Modly stepped down.
Braithwaite cruised through a Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing this month and pulled few punches in criticizing the service for some of its most high-profile fiascoes — including the handling of the coronavirus aboard the Roosevelt, a pair of ship collisions that killed 17 sailors in 2017 and the Fat Leonard corruption scandal that has plagued Navy leadership for nearly a decade.