President Donald Trump said he will nominate Kenneth Braithwaite, the U.S. ambassador to Norway, to become the next Navy secretary after he fired Richard Spencer over the president’s controversial decision in November to restore the rank of Eddie Gallagher, a former Navy SEAL charged with killing an ISIS prisoner in 2017.
Gallagher was acquitted of the murder charge but was found guilty of posing with the captive’s corpse and demoted from Chief Petty Officer to a First Class Petty Officer.
Trump’s decision to restore Gallagher’s rank was against the Defense Department’s decision to proceed with a Navy review board to determine whether Gallagher should be stripped of his Navy Trident, an honor earned upon completion of the grueling Navy SEAL program.
Here’s what you need to know about Kenneth Braithwaite, Trump’s choice to become the new Secretary of the Navy.
1. Kenneth Braithwaite Is Currently the U.S. Ambassador to Norway
Kenneth Braithwaite was confirmed by the Senate to be the U.S. Ambassador in December 2017. He is a 1984 graduate of the United States Naval Academy.
According to Defense News, Braithwaite spoke about President Donald Trump during a security conference in Oslo in October. “Donald Trump is not a politician, he speaks his mind, and sometimes without a filter,” he said. “He’s definitely not a diplomat. I think we all know that. He’s a businessman … One of the worst things you can do when you enter a room to negotiate is be predictable.”
Longtime diplomat Ryan Crocker, who served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, and Lebanon, told Defense News that Braithwaite would be a good fit for the job of Navy Secretary.
“He was fantastic,” Crocker said. “It’s obviously a huge advantage he was in the Navy, a service he deeply loves. He will communicate the values and traditions of the Navy, and all it does in our society.”
2. If Confirmed by the Senate, Kenneth Braithwaite Would Replace Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, Who Was Fired by President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump said he interfered in Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s case because he wasn’t “pleased” with the way the Navy handled it. “He was treated very badly,” Trump said in a series of posts on Twitter in which he also announced that he intends to nominate U.S. Ambassador to Norway Kenneth Braithwaite to be the next Navy Secretary.
“I was not pleased with the way that Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s trial was handled by the Navy. He was treated very badly but, despite this, was completely exonerated on all major charges. I then restored Eddie’s rank. Likewise, large cost overruns from past administration’s contracting procedures were not addressed to my satisfaction. Therefore, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer’s services have been terminated by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. I thank Richard for his service & commitment. Eddie will retire peacefully with all of the honors that he has earned, including his Trident Pin. Admiral and now Ambassador to Norway Ken Braithwaite will be nominated by me to be the new Secretary of the Navy. A man of great achievement and success, I know Ken will do an outstanding job!,” Trump tweeted.
In an exclusive interview with CBS News’ David Martin at the Pentagon, outgoing Navy Secretary said he was fired for trying to arrange an agreement with the White House to let Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher keep his Trident if President Donald Trump didn’t get involved in the case. The White House declined.
“In order to preserve the resiliency of the naval institution, I had to step up and do something when it came to the Gallagher case,” Spencer told CBS News. “I will take the bad on me, for not letting him know I did that,” Spencer said of Defense Secretary Mark Esper. “But as far as I was concerned, at that point, the president understood the deal. Arguably, he doesn’t have to deal with anyone. He said, ‘I’m going to be involved.’ He sent a signed letter to me, an order with his signature on it, saying, ‘Promote Edward Gallagher to E7,'” Spencer said, referring to the rank of chief petty officer.
Spencer said he doesn’t believe that Trump “really understands the full definition of a warfighter.”
“A warfighter is a profession of arms and a profession of arms has standards that they have to be held to, and they hold themselves to,” Spencer said.
In his official resignation letter, Spencer said “I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took.” He said that the United States’ Uniform Code of Military Justice “are the shields that set us apart, and the beacons that protect us all.”
3. Kenneth Braithwaite Served in the U.S. Navy for 27 Years
Kenneth Braithwaite graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1984 and became a naval aviator in 1986, according to his U.S. Navy bio. He flew anti-submarine missions tracking adversary submarines throughout the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.
In 1988, Brathwaite was “selected for redesignation as a public affairs officer” and worked on board the USS America.
He had additional duty as PAO to Commander Carrier Group 2 and Commander, Striking Force 6th Fleet. He made both a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Force deployment to the North Atlantic operating above the Arctic Circle and a Mediterranean /Indian Ocean cruise where the battle group responded to tensions in the Persian Gulf. In 1990 he was assigned to the staff of Commander, Naval Base Philadelphia as chief of Public Affairs.
Braithwaite left active duty in 1993 and joined the Navy Reserve and served with numerous commands from Boston to Norfolk. According to the U.S. Navy, his decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (with oak leaf cluster), Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (5) with Combat “V”, Navy Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and numerous campaign and service medals.
4. Kenneth Braithwaite Worked for the Late Senator Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and Was a Councilman in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania
Kenneth Braithwaite is originally from Michigan, but has strong ties to Pennsylvania. He worked as chief public affairs officer at the Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia in 1990 and earned a master’s degree in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania in 1995, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Braithwaite was the executive director of the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council in Philadelphia from 2006 to 2008. He also worked as the Southeast Pennsylvania Executive Director and then the State Director for then-Sen. Arlen Specter and was a councilman for the borough of Ridley Park in Pennsylvania from 1993 to 1996, according to his official State Department bio.
5. Under Secretary Thomas Modly Is Serving As Acting Secretary of the Navy Until Kenneth Braithwaite Is Officially Nominated and Confirmed By the Senate
Thomas Modly is from Ohio and was sworn in as Under Secretary of the Navy on Dec. 4, 2017, serving as Chief Management Officer and Chief Information Officer for the Department of the Navy, according to his official Navy bio.
He is currently serving as the acting secretary of the Navy.
Modly graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1983 and served as an UH-1N pilot and an assistant professor of political science at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He left active duty in 1990. He also has an MBA from Harvard University.