Submariner Adm. Richardson Picked As Next CNO

President Obama nominates the second straight submariner as the Navy's lead officer.

Adm. John M. Richardson was chosen Wednesday to succeed fellow submariner Adm. Jonathan Greenert as the next chief of Naval Operations (CNO) in a sign of the Pentagon’s commitment to the expensive replacement program for the Ohio class ballistic missile submarines.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said he had recommended the 55-year-old Richardson to the White House and President Obama had agreed to nominate him to become the Navy’s top officer and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). There was no immediate word on when Senate confirmation hearings for Richardson would begin.

Carter said that Richardson, currently director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, was the “clear choice” to become CNO, calling him a “go-to officer for many of the Navy’s tough issues.”

Carter cited Richardson’s work on the Ohio replacement program and “his handling of problems of integrity and ethics.”

The reference to “integrity and ethics” included the admiral’s leadership and connection to three high profile investigations that have rocked the Navy – the Navy Yard shooting, the Fat Leonard scandal, and the nuclear reaction cheating scandal.

Richardson led a Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA) in the Navy’s dealings with Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) and its chief executive, Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis, which issued a wide range of bribes for Navy contracts.

Richardson eventually cleared Adm. Samuel Locklear, head of the Pacific Command, whose retirement was put on hold while the CDA deliberated. However, the CAD issued a censure of three, two-star rear admirals for their involvement with GDMA.

Following the Navy Yard shooting in 2013, Richardson led the Navy’s Manual of the Judge Advocate General (JAGMAN) investigation into the incident and the service’s response to the tragedy.

Richardson also oversaw the investigation into the sailors who were found to be cheating on a training test dealing with Navy nuclear reactors.

As head of Naval Nuclear Propulsion since November 2012, Richardson has been heavily involved in the program for replacing the Ohio-class submarines, which carry Trident nuclear missiles and form a leg of the nation’s nuclear triad.

Richardson also oversaw the investigation into the sailors who were found to be cheating on a training test dealing with Navy nuclear reactors.

Under current schedules, the first Ohio replacement is scheduled to begin construction in 2021 and enter service in 2031. The replacements are estimated to cost at least $4 billion and possibly as high as $8 billion, compared to the Ohio-class submarine’s cost in 2011 dollars of about $2.9 billion.

Navy leaders and Congress have worked to create a controversial separate funding line to build the next generation Ohio-class submarines. Navy officials have said the service would not be able to afford the program if they had to fit it under the service’s ship building budget.

Carter made the Richardson announcement at a brief Pentagon ceremony at which he also announced his choice of Army Gen. Mark Milley to replace Gen. Ray Odierno as Army Chief of Staff.

Richardson and Milley joined Carter, Odierno, Greenert, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Army Secretary John McHugh at the announcement. Only Carter spoke and he took no questions from reporters.

Mabus later called Richardson “one of our finest officers. I have great confidence that he is the right leader for our Navy.” Greenert, who will retire this fall, said that Richardson was “an ideal strategic leader to keep our Navy moving forward.”

“[Richardson] has the background and experience in dealing with tough challenges combined with expert judgment that will guide our Navy well,” Greenert said. “He has played a fundamental role in addressing many of our current and future challenges. I am confident he will ensure our Navy’s seapower, now and in the future.”

Richardson, a 1982 graduate of the Naval Academy with a degree in physics, also holds Masters Degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the National War College.

In his career, Richardsond previously served as commander of the submarine USS Honolulu, Submarine Group 8, Submarine Allied Naval Forces South, and as Chief of Staff for U.S. Naval Forces Europe and U.S. Naval Forces Africa.

The choices of Richardson and Milley were the latest moves by the White House in seeking a complete lineup change at the Joint Chiefs of Staff by the fall.

Last week, Obama nominated Marine Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford to replace Dempsey as JCS Chairman. Marine Gen. John Kelly, now head of U.S. Southern Command, and Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, currently director of Joint Force Development on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, were considered possible successors to Dunford as Commandant.

Obama also will have to find a new Air Force chief of Staff this fall, when current Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh is expected to retire.

— Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com

About the Author

Richard Sisk
Richard Sisk is a reporter for Military.com. He can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.
  • jbiz

    f-35 concurrency failure.

  • Big-D

    I think he's a finechoice for CNO, he's been there and he's done it
    I so sick of the singing and dancing, and "haven't done anything" types of Admirals. We haven't had a great CNO is a very long time and we're overdue.

    Now, we can only hope that he'll be the one to cancel the F-35

    • Bob

      I also see Admiral Richardson as a good choice. Yet, the F-35 won't be canceled nor should it….

  • JRT

    Congrats Adm. Richardson.

    Both thumbs up.

    • JRT

      Yes we need the Ohio BN replacement. And yes we also need the Ohio GN replacement in the form of the mini-GN Virginia block V with the VPM plug.

      To keep the CVN and CSG viable we also need a new CGN, and somebody has to convince the next President and Congress to fund that.

      If you need to control a piece of ground, you need boots on the ground, and that requires control of the air, and that requires the CVN, and that requires the CSG, which is becoming increasingly reliant on a vulnerable network, a weak link in the chain currently necessary to defend against combined swarmed attack. The CGN could provide independent defense.

      That CGN would be a high endurance fast air and missile defense cruiser that is big enough to put large aperture radar, a large load of missiles, and high mounted laser in the CSGs, to provide independent defense against combined swarmed surface, air, and missile attack, to keep CVN viable as means of projecting force against peer level adversary. Subs cannot do that, and neither can the current classes of DDG and CG. And groups cannot combine to do that well when the network is compromised. A new large platform is needed, with the speed and endurance of the CVN it would protect.

  • Warren Hopkins

    I hope he is sharper than his salute!
    I have seen a lot worse.
    I know that is nitpicking but the top guy should be a good example.

    • tom dixon

      I am sure he will work on a sharp salute. Bubbleheads have to be careful swinging their arms around. So sharp salutes not so important as not knocking open a valve

  • DonH

    Wondered why ADM Locklear hadn't retired yet. He only said that "stuff" was going on. I think he said it was because of the change in SecDef.

  • Thumbs up for the new CNO. A great choice. Am an ex-bubblehead, and I have enormous respect for anyone who came up through the sub fleet. Sub captains are the highest caliber officers, very sharp and cool-headed. I've never seen one break a sweat or lose their cool. They also contain zero b.s., which is an additional plus. High kudos to Adm. Richardson…

  • chrisgulyas

    To our new CNO:

    (1) Welcome Aboard Sir. Fair winds and following seas.

    (2) Please halt all of these ZUMWALTS (i.e., uniform changes). It's out of hand. The previous CNO wants the WAVES (women in Navy) to wear jumpers just like their male counterparts because "He wants everyone to look like Sailors"….. aren't we ALL Sailors regardless if you wear a skirt or trousers?

    (3) Please…pull the BJM from 1940…and start from there. THIS was the Navy….today's Navy worries me. I do not believe they are Mission Oriented, disciplined OR dedicated.

    (3) Please…reinstate ratings that were modified / deleted. I was a Personnelman (PN) … and I will NEVER be called a PS.

    Looking forward to your dedication to OUR Navy.

    V/R,
    Chris Gulyas, PN2, USN (former)

  • BubbleheadBell

    I served with the Admiral he is of the finest caliber the Navy has produced in a long time. he is a man of great integrity and demands it of those that serve with him.In my experience with him he was always the one voice that made sure that people did what was best for the mission.

    • MM1/A-gang

      Concur. I served with the Admiral also, aboard SSN-716. Didn't serve with him long but was impressed with what I saw.

  • Joseph Morales

    Proud to wear dolphins and be submarine qualified, Casimir Pulaski SSBN 633 (B) '79, A-gang! Very happy to see a submariner as CNO, best of luck!

  • navy5717th

    ADM Richardson appears to be the consensus choice of those who've commented thus far. Fine. he appears to have done a good job putting out fires within the submarine Navy. That said, as CNO, he's going to be in charge of everything that floats, flies, or submerges — and has a Navy label.

    What I wonder about all of term JCS is their willingness to have the courage of their convictions by saying "No" to their civilian bosses when something shouldn't be done — and mean it. The current Commander-in-Chief takes counsel of civilians who, like himself, have NO idea what our military does or shouldn't do.

    I hope ADM Richardson is such a man. Good luck to him.

    • Don C

      Unfortunately, nary one of the yokels running for President on either side of the political aisle has any military experience, so I do not see this changing any time soon.

      And that is sad…