Vice Adm. Michelle Howard, here speaking during a Black History Month celebration in February in Norfolk, Va., has been nominated for her fourth star and for the Navy's No. 2 job. (MC2 Chris R. Williamson/Navy)
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President Obama has tapped Vice Adm. Michelle Howard to be the Navy’s vice chief of naval operations, a historic nomination that, if confirmed, would make Howard the first woman and first African-American to hold the Navy’s No. 2 post. She would also be the first black woman to attain four-star rank in the Navy.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Howard’s nomination in a Friday news release that also disclosed two other high-profile nominations: Adm. Mark Ferguson, the current VCNO, to be commander of Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy, and Rear Adm. Joseph Mulloy to be the chief of naval operations for integration of capabilities and resources, a position that comes with a third star.
Howard, a surface warfare officer, is a 1982 Naval Academy grad who has commanded the amphibious dock landing ship Rushmore and Expeditionary Strike Group 2. She has a master’s degree from the Army’s Command and General Staff College, according to her official bio.
“These proven leaders have consistently shown the ability to guide our U.S. Navy during dynamic times and I have the utmost confidence they will continue to do so in their new roles,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a statement after the nominations were announced Friday. “They are prime examples of why people are our Navy's greatest asset.
“The diversity and breadth of their knowledge, experience and training will help ensure our Navy and our international partnerships remain strong long into the future,” Mabus said.
Also Friday, Hagel announced he had chosen Rear Adm. John Kirby to be his top spokesman. Kirby has served as the Navy’s chief of information since 2012 and will take over as the Pentagon press secretary, a prestigious posting typically given to civilian appointees rather than uniformed public affairs officers. In a statement, Hagel called Kirby “a trusted voice for the Department of Defense and one of its leading public affairs officers.”