The Navy’s highest-ranking woman may soon head to heading to Europe.
Adm. Michelle Howard, the vice chief of naval operations, is the president's Navy's likely top pick to lead to relieve Adm. Mark Ferguson as head of Naval Forces Europe, now commanded by Adm. Mark Ferguson, according to three sources familiar with high-level personnel moves. Howard also relieved Ferguson as vice chief.internal Navy deliberations.
In July 2014, Howard became the Navy’s first female woman four-star. The follow-on assignment in Naples, Italy,Europe would all-but guarantee she’ll retire an admiral.
If confirmed for the post, it would cement the 1982 Naval Academy graduate's legacy as one of the most accomplished women in the service's history. She was the first black woman to command a ship — the amphibious dock landing ship Rushmore in 1999 — and went on to command Amphibious Squadron 7 and later Expeditionary Strike Group 2.
Howard is also well known for leading a counter-piracy task force that pulled off the high-seas rescue of civilian Capt.ain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates in 2009, later depicted in the Tom Hanks movie "Captain Phillips."
Replacing Howard at vice chief, sources say, will likely be Vice Adm. Bill Moran, a P-3 pilot who has served as the current chief of naval personnel since Moran, a former P-3 pilot, has been CNP since 2013.
During his time there, Moran has worked to rebuild sailors' trust he has made a priority out of rebuilding sailors’ trust in senior leadership in the wake of the highly controversial 20112 enlisted retention board. He has also worked hardfought to fill empty billets at sea, which had been as high as 13,000 when Moran took office, and hiked sea pay for the first time in decades and introduced new hardship duty pay-tempo for sailors on long deployments.
Moran’s likely successor is Rear Adm. Robert Burke, the 2005 James Bond Stockdale Award winner for his tour as CO of the attack submarine Hampton. Burke head’s the chief of naval operations’ military personnel plans and policy office at the Pentagon.