The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm the first woman to lead the Navy and serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a new top general for the Air Force and an assistant Marine Corps commandant as anger intensified over a Republican senator’s monthslong hold on military promotions.
Adm. Lisa Franchetti was approved as chief of naval operations in a 95-1 vote after serving in the position for months on an acting basis while also performing the duties of her former role as vice chief. Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., a former Army captain, was the only senator to oppose Franchetti’s promotion.
“At every step of her career, Admiral Franchetti has been a trailblazer and a team builder who focuses on the mission, leads by example and gets the job done,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “She is an inspiration to many and someone who will always put the security of our nation, and all who defend it, first.”
Her historic appointment marked the second time since February that the Senate has individually confirmed senior military nominees affected by a nine-month hold on appointments and promotions by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.
Gen. David Allvin was approved as Air Force chief of staff in a 95-1 vote, with Marshall again voting no. Allvin also had been serving a dual role of acting chief of staff of the service as well as vice chief due to the logjam created by Tuberville’s hold. Allvin’s predecessor, Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown, was promoted to chairman of the Joint Chiefs in September.
Senators unanimously voted, 86-0, to approve Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney for promotion to four-star general and appointment as Marine Corps assistant commandant. He was nominated for the service’s second-highest job in July.
The promotion of the three senior officers took on new urgency this week after Gen. Eric Smith, the Marine Corps commandant, reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday. Tuberville’s hold, an act of protest against the Pentagon’s abortion access policy, had left the service’s second-in-command position empty.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Smith’s hospitalization coupled with Israel’s war in Gaza has created a crisis. He long resisted holding individual votes on nominees, which are normally approved in large batches, but made an exception in September to fill three seats on the Joint Chiefs.
He again moved to break with standard procedure this week after Tuberville and other Republicans tried to force floor votes on Mahoney, Franchetti and Allvin.
“Patience is wearing thin on both sides of the aisle over the senator’s actions,” Schumer said Thursday.
Frustration with Tuberville’s hold publicly spilled into the Republican ranks on Wednesday night as several Republican senators attempted to bring forward the nominations of 61 of the nearly 400 impacted officers. Each request was shot down by Tuberville, though he has repeatedly said he would not stand in the way of individual votes on nominees.
Tuberville offered no explanation for his refusals, visibly angering his fellow Republicans as they spent four hours attempting to break through the blockade.
“We have done the best we can to honor the request of a fellow senator that these nominations be brought to the floor and voted on individually,” said Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who is a retired Army officer. “I really respect men of their word. I do not respect men who do not honor their word.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., stormed off the Senate floor after confronting Tuberville over the extraordinary length of his hold and his decision to punish military personnel for a policy decision made by civilians.
“No matter whether you believe it or not, Sen. Tuberville, this is doing great damage to our military,” Graham said. “I don’t say that lightly. I’ve been trying to work with you for nine months.”
Republicans said they would return to the floor to put forward more nominees but Democrats are pushing for a temporary resolution that would allow the chamber to group most military promotions into a single vote.
On Thursday, senators continued their attack on Tuberville’s hold while voicing support for Franchetti, Allvin and Mahoney and vouching for their experience.
“These are some of the finest leaders our nation has to offer, and America is stronger because of their service and their sacrifice,” Reed said.
Franchetti commissioned into the Navy in 1985 and became a career surface warfare officer, commanding ships, squadrons, carrier strike groups and fleets. She served as commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet from 2018 to 2020 and was appointed as the Navy’s second highest-ranking officer in 2022.
She is only the second female four-star admiral in the Navy’s nearly 250-year history.
“I know she’ll continue her outstanding work as she breaks barriers for the Navy and for women everywhere,” said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.
Allvin is taking over the Air Force’s top position after helping lead the service’s modernization as vice chief and serving with the Joint Chiefs as its director for strategy, plans and policy.
He graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1986 and has logged more than 4,600 flight hours as a command pilot, including 100 hours in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
“This is a gentleman, an officer, who has been in combat and who knows the rigors and demands of combat and like Admiral Franchetti, places his mission and his Air Force members ahead of any personal ambition,” said Reed.
The confirmation of Franchetti and Allvin means all members of the Joint Chiefs are Senate-confirmed for the first time since the summer.
Mahoney’s confirmation will allow him to step in to serve as Marine Corps commandant while Smith’s health recovers. Mahoney previously served as deputy commandant for programs and resources and had racked up 5,000 hours of flight time as a Marine fighter pilot.
“He has led with distinction and with diligence and again, with selfless service to his Marines and to the nation,” Reed said.