The White House has informed Congress that it will nominate Adm. Christopher Grady, the commander of the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command, to serve as the military’s No. 2 officer, just weeks before the current Joint Chiefs vice chair is set to retire.
Grady’s nomination has been expected for weeks, as Joint Chiefs Vice Chair Gen. John Hyten is due to retire Nov. 20. The late date of the nomination all but guarantees that there will be a gap between retirement and confirmation of a new vice chair.
The late nomination has been a concern among lawmakers. Any gap in the position will have some downstream effects as the Pentagon rewrites its Nuclear Posture Review and tries to speed up the process by which it buys new equipment.
The White House has not officially announced the nomination, but a post on Congress.gov and a Hill staffer confirmed the impending announcement.
Grady has been interviewing at the White House since the spring, and as late as last week, a Pentagon official confirmed that the admiral had one more conversation to go before any announcement was made.
Republican senators on Tuesday initially said they were unaware that Grady had been nominated for the Joint Chiefs job. At a press conference on annual defense legislation, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) emphasized that there still would likely be a vacancy in the post with little time to confirm a replacement before Hyten retires.
“If we got it, it’s still very unlikely, in terms of meetings, in terms of hearings, in terms of floor time — this will be a vote that we want to take on the floor — that we’re going to get this done in the proper amount of time without having a gap,” Sullivan said. “And why on Earth would you have a dereliction of duty approach to a very simple issue? Put forward the vice chairman nominee before there’s a gap.”
The delay in nominating Grady has already pushed back his handover of Fleet Forces Command to his successor, which was slated for mid-October. His replacement, Vice Adm. Daryl Caudle, who left the Submarine Force Atlantic command on Sept. 10, has been waiting in the wings for almost two months.
The Virginia-based Fleet Forces Command is tasked with ensuring that the entire fleet is manned, trained and equipped before being deployed to meet the needs of commanders around the globe.
POLITICO first reported last month that the field had been narrowed to Grady and Adm. Charles Richard, head of U.S. Strategic Command.