Chief of Naval Operations

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 United States Chief of Naval Operations
Flag of the Chief of Naval Operations
ADM John M. Richardson, USN
Admiral John M. Richardson

since 18 September 2015
Department of the Navy
Member of Joint Chiefs of Staff
Reports to Secretary of Defense
Secretary of the Navy
Appointer The President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length 4 years
Constituting instrument 10 U.S.C. § 5033
Formation 11 May 1915
First holder ADM William S. Benson
Deputy Vice Chief of Naval Operations
Website Official website


Department of the Navy

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.[1] 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.[2][3] The CNO also performs all other functions prescribed under 10 U.S.C. § 5033 and those assigned by the secretary[2] 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..[1]

Joint Chiefs of Staff

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.[4] 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.[4] However, the president may waive those requirements if he determines that appointing the officer is necessary for the national interest.[4] By statute, the CNO is appointed as a four-star admiral.[4]

Official Residence

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.[5] The Chief of Naval Operations currently resides in Quarters A in the Washington Naval Yard.

Office of the Chief of Naval Operations

US Navy Office of Chief Naval Operations Org Chart
Organizational chart of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV).

The Chief of Naval Operations presides over the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OpNav),[6] 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.[7]

Policy documents are issued in the form of OPNAV Instructions.

List of Chiefs of Naval Operations (1915–present)

The position of CNO replaced the position of Aide for Naval Operations, which was a position established by regulation rather than statutory law.[8]

US Navy 061205-N-0696M-018 Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Mullen meets with former Navy Chief%27s at a CNO Conference at the Pentagon
Mullen (CNO in December 2006) with some of his predecessors: Clark, Watkins, Hayward and Johnson
No. Image Name Tenure
Began Ended Days of service
1 William S. Benson ADM William S. Benson 11 May 1915 25 September 1919 1598
2 Robert E. Coontz ADM Robert E. Coontz 1 November 1919 21 July 1923 1358
3 Edward Walter Eberle ADM Edward W. Eberle 21 July 1923 14 November 1927 1577
4 Charles Frederick Hughes ADM Charles F. Hughes 14 November 1927 17 September 1930 1099
5 William Veazie Pratt ADM William V. Pratt 17 September 1930 30 June 1933 1017
6 William standley adm usn ADM William H. Standley 1 July 1933 1 January 1937 1280
7 William Leahy cropped FADM William D. Leahy 2 January 1937 1 August 1939 941
8 Harold Rainsford Stark ADM Harold R. Stark 1 August 1939 2 March 1942 944
9 FADM Ernest J. King FADM Ernest J. King 2 March 1942 15 December 1945 1384
10 Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz portrait FADM Chester W. Nimitz 15 December 1945 15 December 1947 730
11 Louis E. Denfeld ADM Louis E. Denfeld 15 December 1947 2 November 1949 688
12 Forrest P SHerman ADM Forrest P. Sherman 2 November 1949 22 July 1951 627
13 William Fechteler ADM William M. Fechteler 16 August 1951 17 August 1953 732
14 Robert Bostwick Carney ADM Robert B. Carney 17 August 1953 17 August 1955 730
15 ADM Burke, Arleigh (CNO) ADM Arleigh A. Burke 17 August 1955 1 August 1961 2176
16 Georgewandersonjr(big) ADM George W. Anderson Jr. 1 August 1961 1 August 1963 730
17 ADM McDonald, David Lamar ADM David L. McDonald 1 August 1963 1 August 1967 1461
18 ADM Thomas Moorer ADM Thomas H. Moorer 1 August 1967 1 July 1970 1065
19 Elmo Zumwalt ADM Elmo R. Zumwalt 1 July 1970 29 June 1974 1459
20 James Holloway III ADM James L. Holloway III 29 June 1974 1 July 1978 1463
21 ADM Hayward, Thomas B CNO Official Portrait ADM Thomas B. Hayward 1 July 1978 30 June 1982 1460
22 Admiral James Watkins, official military photo.JPEG ADM James D. Watkins 30 June 1982 30 June 1986 1461
23 Admiral Carlisle Trost, official military photo.JPEG ADM Carlisle A.H. Trost 1 July 1986 29 June 1990 1459
24 Admiral Frank Kelso, official military photo.JPEG ADM Frank B. Kelso II 29 June 1990 23 April 1994 1394
25 Jeremy M. Boorda ADM Jeremy M. Boorda 23 April 1994 16 May 1996 754
26 Admiral Jay Johnson, official military photo.JPEG ADM Jay L. Johnson 16 May 1996 21 July 2000 1527
27 VernClark ADM Vern Clark 21 July 2000 22 July 2005 1827
28 Admiral Michael Mullen, official Navy photograph ADM Michael Mullen 22 July 2005 29 September 2007 860
29 US Navy 071108-N-0000X-001 Navy file photo of Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Gary Roughead ADM Gary Roughead 29 September 2007 23 September 2011 1394
30 Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert (CNO) ADM Jonathan W. Greenert 23 September 2011 18 September 2015 1456
31 ADM John M. Richardson, USN ADM John M. Richardson 18 September 2015 Incumbent 1062

See also


  1. ^ a b "Chief of Naval Operations". United States Navy. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b 10 USC 5013(f). Secretary of the Navy
  3. ^ 10 USC 165. Combatant commands: administration and support
  4. ^ a b c d "10 USC 5033. Chief of Naval Operations". Retrieved 24 September 2007.
  5. ^ "The Vice President's Residence". The White House. Archived from the original on 21 October 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  6. ^ Archived 22 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Chief of Naval Operations − Responsibilities. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
  7. ^ "National Nuclear Security Administration". National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of Energy 2009. Department of Energy Archived from the original on June 5, 2009. Retrieved 14 August 2009.
  8. ^ "Navy - Chief of Naval Operations". International Military Digest. 1 (1): 68. June 1915. Retrieved 21 May 2015.

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