WASHINGTON — A handful of high-ranking US Navy personnel logjams seems to have been broken with the announcements Thursday of the nomination of the head of the aircraft carrier program to lead the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and the appointment of several rear admirals to new positions.
President Obama nominated Rear Adm. Thomas Moore on Thursday for a third star and to succeed Vice Adm. William Hilarides in command of NAVSEA, the entity that overseas ship construction, repair and modernization.
Moore has served in NAVSEA as program executive officer (PEO) for aircraft carriers since August 2011. A surface nuclear officer, he oversaw the construction of the new Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)-class aircraft carriers, as well as the upkeep and modernization of all the Navy's carriers.
Hilarides has led NAVSEA since June 2013, and is expected to retire this year.
Moore's nomination had been held up at the White House while the Navy worked quietly with Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. McCain, a vociferous critic of the high cost of the carrier program, has put great pressure on Moore and his department to keep expenses down on the Ford and produce follow-on ships at significantly lower costs.
Several sources indicated that McCain signaled the Navy not to put forth Moore's name for promotion, but the service and the White House apparently now feel confident Moore can get through the nomination process.
"Navy leadership recognizes that Moore in his last job was a favorite target of the SASC chairman," one insider admitted, noting that the nomination will likely get heavy scrutiny from McCain.
Also moving up will be Rear Adm. (lower half) Brian Antonio, PEO for Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), nominated for a second star and to relieve Moore at PEO Carriers. Antonio served as PEO LCS from September 2013 until he was relieved Tuesday by Rear Adm. John Neagley and, as a captain, worked as the major program manager for Future Aircraft Carriers, PMS 378, from 2007 to 2011.
Notable among others on the latest flag assignment list approved by the Navy's top leadership is Rear Adm. Michael Manazir, director of the Air Warfare Division, N98, in the office of the chief of naval operations. He's to be assigned as the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems, N9, a key position that brings together major warfighting communities.
The uniformed N9 position, normally a three-star vice admiral, is currently vacant, filled in an acting capacity by Brian Persons, a civilian in the Senior Executive Service, since the departure last September of Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin to command the US Seventh Fleet.
Manazir has been the Navy leadership's choice to succeed Aucoin, but the move has been held in abeyance while first the Department of Justice, then the Navy's Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA) reviewed Manazir's relations with Glenn Defense Marine Asia, also known as the "Fat Leonard" case after a nickname for GDMA's chief officer, Leonard Glenn Francis.
Investigations into the Navy's relationship with GDMA, once a top provider of ship services in the Western Pacific and Asia, have resulted in a number of criminal convictions and Navy sanctions for misconduct, and Manazir is one of dozens of senior officers who have come under scrutiny.
Justice and the CDA have finished their reviews of Manazir, a source said, and no charges are being filed, although there may be some sanctions for minor violations.
The Navy is moving ahead, however, with putting Manazir in the N9 position. "Navy leadership believes he's the right guy because of his experience inside N9 and his warfighting experience in command of a carrier group," the source said, referring to Manazir's two assignments to the Air Warfare Division and command of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group.
Nevertheless, it's not yet clear whether Manazir will be nominated for a third star, or simply serve in the N9 job as a two-star rear admiral.
Congress still has to approve all the proposed flag moves.