ANNAPOLIS, Md. — As Adm. Mike Gilday handed command of the U.S. Navy over to Adm. Lisa Franchetti — who joins a growing list of acting service chiefs — top Navy and Pentagon leaders said the service is on the verge of a technological and operational overhaul.

Gilday, speaking at the relinquishment of command ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy here, said his perch as CNO since August 2019 has “given me a front-row glimpse into the future.”

He said the Navy has moved to keep up with rapid changes in technology and in global threats, including exercising and implementing new operating concepts, building out a new hybrid fleet of manned and unmanned platforms, deploying next-generation platforms like the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter and the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier, and developing and testing faster and longer-range weapons.

“This change we are undergoing is nothing short of revolutionary,” he added.

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro praised Gilday’s efforts to improve mission-capable rates for Navy aircraft while reducing maintenance delay days at shipyards and repair turnaround times. In particular, he noted Gilday’s “Get Real, Get Better” effort, meant to empower chains of command to fix nagging problems in the fleet. He called that program perhaps Gilday’s “greatest legacy.”

Franchetti, who has served as vice chief since September 2022, only spoke briefly at the ceremony, but suggested her term as chief of naval operations, if confirmed by the Senate, would build on his efforts.

“Your vision and transformational leadership these past four years has laid the foundation on which we are building our Navy’s readiness for today while designing the fleet of tomorrow,” she said. “I will act with a sense of urgency to ensure our sailors have everything they need to maintain our warfighting edge.”

Franchetti is now acting CNO as Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a Republican from Alabama, continues to hold up all military promotions over his opposition to a Defense Department policy related to abortion.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during the ceremony that more than 300 flag and general officers’ promotions are held up, keeping these top officers from moving into their next assignments — and, now, for the first time ever, leaving three military branches without confirmed service chiefs. Gen. Eric Smith took command of the Marine Corps as acting commandant in July, and earlier this month Gen. Randy George became the acting Army chief of staff.

“This is unprecedented. It is unnecessary. And it is unsafe. This sweeping hold is undermining America’s military readiness. It’s hindering our ability to retain our very best officers. And it’s upending the lives of far too many American military families,” Austin said.

“Smooth and swift transitions of confirmed leadership are central to the defense of the United States and to the full strength of the most lethal fighting force in history. And it is time for the Senate to confirm all of our superbly qualified military nominees — including the 33rd Chief of Naval Operations.”

Del Toro also slammed the ongoing hold by Tuberville.

“The American people deserve to have their best military leaders in place, and in our Department of the Navy that includes a confirmed chief of naval operations and commandant of the Marine Corps,” the Navy secretary said.

Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.

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