WASHINGTON — Turmoil in the top ranks of the Pentagon continued Monday as the four-star admiral who was to take over as the Navy’s top officer on Aug. 1 will instead leave the service due to poor judgment regarding a professional relationship.
Adm. William Moran will retire and not become chief of naval operations (CNO), the post for which he was confirmed in May. Until a replacement is selected and confirmed, the current CNO, Adm. John Richardson, will forgo retirement and remain as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Navy said Sunday.
Richardson’s official retirement date was in September.
“Adm. Bill Moran recently brought to my attention that over the past two years he maintained a professional relationship with an individual who was held accountable and counseled for failing to meet the values and standards of the Naval profession,” Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said in a written statement Sunday evening.
“While I admire his faithful service and commitment to the Navy, this decision on his part to maintain that relationship has caused me to call his judgment into question. Therefore, today I accepted Adm. Moran’s request to retire,” Spencer said.
At issue was Moran’s continued reliance on a public affairs officer who had received a career-ending censure for sexual harassment, the Navy said. Spencer first learned of the reliance after Moran’s Senate confirmation in May, the Navy said Sunday.
The Moran departure adds to the swirl off scheduled retirements and unexpected vacancies that have left the civilian and military leadership at the Pentagon in disarray.
The Pentagon has not had a confirmed Defense Secretary since Jim Mattis resigned on December 31, 2018. Patrick Shanahan, the deputy defense secretary, became acting defense secretary and President Trump said he would nominated him for the post.
However, the nomination was never sent to the Senate and Shanahan withdrew from consideration and resigned his post as deputy last month, following revelations of domestic incidents in his past.
Army Secretary Mark Esper is now the acting defense secretary. Trump said he will nominate him for the post but the clock is ticking because of rules governing how long someone can be in the “acting” position. That expires for Esper at the end of July.
Esper’s elevation to acting defense secretary set off a domino impact in the Department of the Army, with others moving into acting roles to fill vacancies. That happened already in the Department of Defense structure with Shanahan’s departure.
In May, Trump said he would nominate Barbara Barrett, a former U.S. ambassador to Finland and an executive in defense industry business, to be the next Air Force secretary. She would replace Heather Wilson.
Gen. Joseph Dunford is to leave his post as chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff this fall. His nominated successor, Gen. Mark Milley, is scheduled to testify at a confirmation hearing by the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
Also Thursday, Gen. David Berger is scheduled to take over as commander of the Marine Corps, succeeding Gen. Robert Neller. He was confirmed by the Senate in June and is to take the post this month during a change of command ceremonies.