Chief of Naval Operations

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

since 18 September 2015
Department of the Navy
Member ofJoint Chiefs of Staff
Reports toSecretary of Defense
Secretary of the Navy
AppointerThe President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length4 years
Constituting instrument10 U.S.C. § 5033
Formation11 May 1915
First holderADM William S. Benson
DeputyVice Chief of Naval Operations
WebsiteOfficial website

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.


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.[1]

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.[2]

Department of the Navy

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.[1][3]

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.[3][4]

Joint Chiefs of Staff

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.[5]


The Chief of Naval Operations is nominated by the President for appointment and must be confirmed by the Senate.[6] 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.[6] However, the president may waive those requirements if he determines that appointing the officer is necessary for the national interest.[6] By statute, the CNO is appointed as a four-star admiral.[6]

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

Office of the Chief of Naval Operations

Organizational chart of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV).

The Chief of Naval Operations presides over the Navy Staff, formally known as the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV).[8][9] 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.[10][11]

The OPNAV organization consists of:

Policy documents emanating from the CNO are issued in the form of OPNAV Instructions.

OPNAV is one of the three headquarters staffs in Department of the Navy mainly based at The Pentagon, with the others being the Office of the Secretary of the Navy and Headquarters, Marine Corps.

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.[14] (+ - died in office)

Mullen (CNO in December 2006) with some of his predecessors: Clark, Watkins, Hayward and Johnson
No Chief of Naval Operations Took office Left office Time in office
William S. Benson
Benson, WilliamAdmiral
William S. Benson
11 May 191525 September 19194 years, 137 days
Robert E. Coontz
Coontz, RobertAdmiral
Robert E. Coontz
1 November 191921 July 19233 years, 262 days
Edward W. Eberle
Eberle, EdwardAdmiral
Edward W. Eberle
21 July 192314 November 19274 years, 116 days
Charles F. Hughes
Hughes, CharlesAdmiral
Charles F. Hughes
14 November 192717 September 19303 years, 3 days
William V. Pratt
Pratt, WilliamAdmiral
William V. Pratt
17 September 193030 June 19332 years, 286 days
William H. Standley
Standley, WilliamAdmiral
William H. Standley
1 July 19331 January 19373 years, 184 days
William D. Leahy
Leahy, WilliamFleet Admiral
William D. Leahy
2 January 19371 August 19392 years, 211 days
Harold R. Stark
Stark, HaroldAdmiral
Harold R. Stark
1 August 19392 March 19422 years, 213 days
Ernest J. King
King, ErnestFleet Admiral
Ernest J. King
2 March 194215 December 19453 years, 288 days
Chester W. Nimitz
Nimitz, ChesterFleet Admiral
Chester W. Nimitz
15 December 194515 December 19472 years, 0 days
Louis E. Denfeld
Denfeld, LouisAdmiral
Louis E. Denfeld
15 December 19472 November 19491 year, 322 days
Forrest P. Sherman
Sherman, ForrestAdmiral
Forrest P. Sherman
2 November 194922 July 1951 +1 year, 262 days
William M. Fechteler
Fechteler, WilliamAdmiral
William M. Fechteler
16 August 195117 August 19532 years, 1 day
Robert B. Carney
Carney, RobertAdmiral
Robert B. Carney
17 August 195317 August 19552 years, 0 days
Arleigh A. Burke
Burke, ArleighAdmiral
Arleigh A. Burke
17 August 19551 August 19615 years, 349 days
George W. Anderson Jr.
Anderson, GeorgeAdmiral
George W. Anderson Jr.
1 August 19611 August 19632 years, 0 days
David L. McDonald
McDonald, DavidAdmiral
David L. McDonald
1 August 19631 August 19674 years, 0 days
Thomas H. Moorer
Moorer, ThomasAdmiral
Thomas H. Moorer
1 August 19671 July 19702 years, 334 days
Elmo R. Zumwalt
Zumwalt, ElmoAdmiral
Elmo R. Zumwalt
1 July 197029 June 19743 years, 363 days
James L. Holloway III
Holloway, JamesAdmiral
James L. Holloway III
(born 1922)
29 June 19741 July 19784 years, 2 days
Thomas B. Hayward
Hayward, ThomasAdmiral
Thomas B. Hayward
(born 1924)
1 July 197830 June 19823 years, 364 days
James D. Watkins
Watkins, JamesAdmiral
James D. Watkins
30 June 198230 June 19864 years, 0 days
Carlisle A.H. Trost
Trost, CarlisleAdmiral
Carlisle A.H. Trost
(born 1930)
1 July 198629 June 19903 years, 363 days
Frank B. Kelso II
Kelso, FrankAdmiral
Frank B. Kelso II
29 June 199023 April 19943 years, 298 days
Jeremy M. Boorda
Boorda, JeremyAdmiral
Jeremy M. Boorda
23 April 199416 May 1996 +2 years, 23 days
Jay L. Johnson
Johnson, JayAdmiral
Jay L. Johnson
(born 1946)
16 May 199621 July 20004 years, 66 days
Vern Clark
Clark, VernAdmiral
Vern Clark
(born 1944)
21 July 200022 July 20055 years, 1 day
Michael Mullen
Mullen, MichaelAdmiral
Michael Mullen
(born 1946)
22 July 200529 September 20072 years, 130 days
Gary Roughead
Roughead, GaryAdmiral
Gary Roughead
(born 1951)
29 September 200723 September 20113 years, 298 days
Jonathan W. Greenert
Greenert, JonathanAdmiral
Jonathan W. Greenert
(born 1953)
23 September 201118 September 20153 years, 360 days
John M. Richardson
Richardson, JohnAdmiral
John M. Richardson
(born 1960)
18 September 2015Incumbent3 years, 59 days

See also


  1. ^ a b "Chief of Naval Operations". United States Navy. Retrieved 2018.
  2. ^ "10 USC 5035. Vice Chief of Naval Operations". Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. Retrieved 2018.
  3. ^ a b 10 USC 5013(f). Secretary of the Navy
  4. ^ 10 USC 165. Combatant commands: administration and support
  5. ^ "10 USC 5033. Chief of Naval Operations". Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. Retrieved 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d "10 USC 5033. Chief of Naval Operations". Retrieved 2007.
  7. ^ "The Vice President's Residence". The White House. Archived from the original on 21 October 2009. Retrieved 2018.
  8. ^ Archived 22 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Chief of Naval Operations - Responsibilities. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
  9. ^ "10 U.S. Code § 5033 - Chief of Naval Operations: general duties". Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. Retrieved 2018.
  10. ^ "10 U.S. Code § 5031 - Office of the Chief of Naval Operations: function; composition". Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. Retrieved 2018.
  11. ^ "10 U.S. Code § 5032 - Office of the Chief of Naval Operations: general duties". Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. Retrieved 2018.
  12. ^ 10 U.S. Code § 5036 - Deputy Chiefs of Naval Operations
  13. ^ "National Nuclear Security Administration". National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of Energy 2009. Department of Energy Archived from the original on June 5, 2009. Retrieved 2009.
  14. ^ "Navy - Chief of Naval Operations". International Military Digest. 1 (1): 68. June 1915. Retrieved 2015.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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