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.
Despite the title, the CNO does not have operational command authority over Naval forces. The CNO is an administrative position based in the Pentagon, and exercises supervision of Navy organizations as the designee of the Secretary of the Navy. Operational command of naval forces falls within the purview of the Combatant Commanders who report to the Secretary of Defense.
|Chief of Naval Operations|
Flag of the Chief of Naval Operations
|Department of the Navy|
|Member of||Joint Chiefs of Staff|
|Reports to||Secretary of Defense|
Secretary of the Navy
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|
The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) is typically the highest-ranking officer on active duty in the U.S. Navy unless the Chairman and/or the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are naval officers.
As per 10 U.S.C. § 5035, whenever there is a vacancy for the Chief of Naval Operations or during the absence or disability of the Chief of Naval Operations, and unless the President directs otherwise, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations performs the duties of the Chief of Naval Operations until a successor is appointed or the absence or disability ceases.
The CNO also performs all other functions prescribed under 10 U.S.C. § 5033, such as presiding over the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV), exercising supervision of Navy organizations, and other duties assigned by the Secretary or higher lawful authority, or the CNO delegates those duties and responsibilities to other officers in OPNAV or in organizations below.
Acting for the Secretary of the Navy, the CNO also designates naval personnel and naval forces available to the commanders of Unified Combatant Commands, subject to the approval of the Secretary of Defense.
The CNO is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as prescribed by 10 U.S.C. § 151 and 10 U.S.C. § 5033. 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.
Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, individually or collectively, in their capacity as military advisers, shall provide advice to the President, the National Security Council (NSC), or the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) on a particular matter when the President, the NSC, or SECDEF requests such advice. Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (other than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) may submit to the Chairman advice or an opinion in disagreement with, or advice or an opinion in addition to, the advice presented by the Chairman to the President, NSC, or SECDEF.
When performing his JCS duties, the CNO is responsible directly to the SECDEF, but keeps SECNAV fully informed of significant military operations affecting the duties and responsibilities of the SECNAV, unless SECDEF orders otherwise.
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 Navy Staff, formally known as the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV). The Office of the Chief of Naval Operations is a statutory organization within the executive part of the Department of the Navy, and its purpose is to furnish professional assistance to the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) and the CNO in carrying out their responsibilities.
The OPNAV organization consists of:
Policy documents emanating from the CNO 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. († - died in office)
|№||Chief of Naval Operations||Took office||Left office||Time in office|
William S. Benson
|11 May 1915||25 September 1919||4 years, 137 days|
Robert E. Coontz
|1 November 1919||21 July 1923||3 years, 262 days|
Edward W. Eberle
|21 July 1923||14 November 1927||4 years, 116 days|
Charles F. Hughes
|14 November 1927||17 September 1930||3 years, 3 days|
William V. Pratt
|17 September 1930||30 June 1933||2 years, 286 days|
William H. Standley
|1 July 1933||1 January 1937||3 years, 184 days|
William D. Leahy
|2 January 1937||1 August 1939||2 years, 211 days|
Harold R. Stark
|1 August 1939||2 March 1942||2 years, 213 days|
Ernest J. King
|2 March 1942||15 December 1945||3 years, 288 days|
Chester W. Nimitz
|15 December 1945||15 December 1947||2 years, 0 days|
Louis E. Denfeld
|15 December 1947||2 November 1949||1 year, 322 days|
Forrest P. Sherman
|2 November 1949||22 July 1951 †||1 year, 262 days|
William M. Fechteler
|16 August 1951||17 August 1953||2 years, 1 day|
Robert B. Carney
|17 August 1953||17 August 1955||2 years, 0 days|
Arleigh A. Burke
|17 August 1955||1 August 1961||5 years, 349 days|
George W. Anderson Jr.
|1 August 1961||1 August 1963||2 years, 0 days|
David L. McDonald
|1 August 1963||1 August 1967||4 years, 0 days|
Thomas H. Moorer
|1 August 1967||1 July 1970||2 years, 334 days|
Elmo R. Zumwalt
|1 July 1970||29 June 1974||3 years, 363 days|
James L. Holloway III
|29 June 1974||1 July 1978||4 years, 2 days|
Thomas B. Hayward
|1 July 1978||30 June 1982||3 years, 364 days|
James D. Watkins
|30 June 1982||30 June 1986||4 years, 0 days|
Carlisle A.H. Trost
|1 July 1986||29 June 1990||3 years, 363 days|
Frank B. Kelso II
|29 June 1990||23 April 1994||3 years, 298 days|
Jeremy M. Boorda
|23 April 1994||16 May 1996 †||2 years, 23 days|
Jay L. Johnson
|16 May 1996||21 July 2000||4 years, 66 days|
|21 July 2000||22 July 2005||5 years, 1 day|
|22 July 2005||29 September 2007||2 years, 130 days|
|29 September 2007||23 September 2011||3 years, 298 days|
Jonathan W. Greenert
|23 September 2011||18 September 2015||3 years, 360 days|
John M. Richardson
|18 September 2015||Incumbent||3 years, 84 days|