WASHINGTON ― U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday officially announced his intent to nominate Kenneth “K.J.” Braithwaite as Navy secretary. Braithwaite is currently the U.S. ambassador to Norway.
Braithwaite, a former Navy spokesman and rear admiral, would assume the job after the sudden firing of former financier Richard V. Spencer. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in November that he recommended Braithwaite to Trump for the job.
The nomination of Braithwaite comes as the Navy and the Office the Secretary of Defense are at odds about the sea service’s budget.
While Esper has been reluctant to realign the budget to help the Navy’s recapitalization efforts, as he is charged with considering the whole of the military, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly told House lawmakers Thursday that assuming there will be a flat budget in fiscal 2021, the Navy will need more than $120 billion over the next 10 years to implement the Navy and Marine Corps’ integrated force structure assessment.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., has not announced a confirmation hearing date for Braithwaite, though one is expected soon. Inhofe has pressed Trump to expeditiously nominate civilians like Braithwaite as the Pentagon grapples with a host of vacant leadership positions.
As ambassador, Braithwaite focused on the security of the Arctic, a region that’s seeing an uptick in Russian and NATO activity. He also both pressured Norway to meet the NATO defense-spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product, and he reassured the Nordic nation that the administration remains committed to the alliance.
A Michigan native and a 1984 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Braithwaite was an anti-submarine warfare pilot who tracked Soviet submarines in the Pacific and Indian oceans for a Hawaii-based patrol squadron. From there, he served in various communications and legislative affairs roles before leaving active service in 1993 and the Naval Reserve in 2011.
In January, CBS News reported that Braithwaite appeared to have previously undisclosed ties to political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica in the year before he was nominated as ambassador, in 2017.
David B. Larter contributed to this report.
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.