The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) is the highest ranking officer and professional head of the United States Navy. The position is a statutory office (10 U.S.C. § 5033) held by a four-star admiral who is a military adviser and deputy to the Secretary of the Navy. In a separate capacity as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (10 U.S.C. § 151) the CNO is a military adviser to the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, the Secretary of Defense, and the President. The current Chief of Naval Operations is Admiral John M. Richardson.
The Chief of Naval Operations is an administrative position based in the Pentagon, and while the CNO does not have operational command authority over Naval forces as the title implies (that is the purview of the Combatant Commanders who report to the Secretary of Defense), the CNO does exercise supervision of Navy organizations as the designee of the Secretary of the Navy.
|Chief of Naval Operations
Seal of the Chief of Naval Operations
Flag of the Chief of Naval Operations
|Department of the Navy|
|Member of||Joint Chiefs of Staff|
Secretary of Defense|
Secretary of the Navy
with Senate advice and consent
|Constituting instrument||10 U.S.C. § 5033|
|Formation||11 May 1915|
|First holder||ADM William S. Benson|
|Deputy||Vice Chief of Naval Operations|
The CNO reports directly to the Secretary of the Navy for the command, utilization of resources, and operating efficiency of the operating forces of the Navy and of the Navy shore activities assigned by the Secretary. Under the authority of the Secretary of the Navy, the CNO also designates naval personnel and naval resources to the commanders of Unified Combatant Commands. The CNO also performs all other functions prescribed under 10 U.S.C. § 5033 and those assigned by the secretary or delegates those duties and responsibilities to other officers in his administration. The CNO is typically the highest-ranking officer on active duty in the Navy unless the Chairman and/or the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are naval officers..
The CNO is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as prescribed by 10 U.S.C. § 151. When performing his JCS duties, the CNO is responsible directly to the Secretary of Defense. Like the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CNO is an administrative position, with no operational command authority over the United States Navy forces.
The Chief of Naval Operations is nominated by the President for appointment and must be confirmed by the Senate. A requirement for being Chief of Naval Operations is having significant experience in joint duty assignments, which includes at least one full tour of duty in a joint duty assignment as a flag officer. However, the president may waive those requirements if he determines that appointing the officer is necessary for the national interest. By statute, the CNO is appointed as a four-star admiral.
Number One Observatory Circle, located on the northeast grounds of the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, was built in 1893 for its superintendent. The Chief of Naval Operations liked the house so much that in 1923 he took over the house as his own official residence. It remained the residence of the CNO until 1974, when Congress authorized its transformation to an official residence for the Vice President. The Chief of Naval Operations currently resides in Quarters A in the Washington Naval Yard.
The Chief of Naval Operations presides over the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OpNav), which is one of the three headquarters staffs in Department of the Navy, all based at The Pentagon (the others being the Office of the Secretary of the Navy and Headquarters Marine Corps.)
The Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) is the principal deputy of the Chief of Naval Operations. Within the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, while there are several Deputy Chiefs of Naval Operations (DCNOs) of either three or two star rank. The Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) is appointed by the Chief of Naval Operations to serve as a spokesperson to address the issues of enlisted personnel to the highest positions in the Navy.
The Director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program is a unique eight-year posting held by a 4 star admiral, which was originally created and served in by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. The appointment as Director is both a military and civilian position as it is the head of both Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program in the Department of the Navy and National Nuclear Security Administration in the Department of Energy.
Policy documents are issued in the form of OPNAV Instructions.
The position of CNO replaced the position of Aide for Naval Operations, which was a position established by regulation rather than statutory law.
|Began||Ended||Days of service|
|1||ADM William S. Benson||11 May 1915||25 September 1919||1598|
|2||ADM Robert E. Coontz||1 November 1919||21 July 1923||1358|
|3||ADM Edward W. Eberle||21 July 1923||14 November 1927||1577|
|4||ADM Charles F. Hughes||14 November 1927||17 September 1930||1099|
|5||ADM William V. Pratt||17 September 1930||30 June 1933||1017|
|6||ADM William H. Standley||1 July 1933||1 January 1937||1280|
|7||FADM William D. Leahy||2 January 1937||1 August 1939||941|
|8||ADM Harold R. Stark||1 August 1939||2 March 1942||944|
|9||FADM Ernest J. King||2 March 1942||15 December 1945||1384|
|10||FADM Chester W. Nimitz||15 December 1945||15 December 1947||730|
|11||ADM Louis E. Denfeld||15 December 1947||2 November 1949||688|
|12||ADM Forrest P. Sherman||2 November 1949||22 July 1951||627|
|13||ADM William M. Fechteler||16 August 1951||17 August 1953||732|
|14||ADM Robert B. Carney||17 August 1953||17 August 1955||730|
|15||ADM Arleigh A. Burke||17 August 1955||1 August 1961||2176|
|16||ADM George W. Anderson Jr.||1 August 1961||1 August 1963||730|
|17||ADM David L. McDonald||1 August 1963||1 August 1967||1461|
|18||ADM Thomas H. Moorer||1 August 1967||1 July 1970||1065|
|19||ADM Elmo R. Zumwalt||1 July 1970||29 June 1974||1459|
|20||ADM James L. Holloway III||29 June 1974||1 July 1978||1463|
|21||ADM Thomas B. Hayward||1 July 1978||30 June 1982||1460|
|22||ADM James D. Watkins||30 June 1982||30 June 1986||1461|
|23||ADM Carlisle A.H. Trost||1 July 1986||29 June 1990||1459|
|24||ADM Frank B. Kelso II||29 June 1990||23 April 1994||1394|
|25||ADM Jeremy M. Boorda||23 April 1994||16 May 1996||754|
|26||ADM Jay L. Johnson||16 May 1996||21 July 2000||1527|
|27||ADM Vern Clark||21 July 2000||22 July 2005||1827|
|28||ADM Michael Mullen||22 July 2005||29 September 2007||860|
|29||ADM Gary Roughead||29 September 2007||23 September 2011||1394|
|30||ADM Jonathan W. Greenert||23 September 2011||18 September 2015||1456|
|31||ADM John M. Richardson||18 September 2015||Incumbent||1062|