Feb. 29 (UPI) — President Donald Trump plans to formally nominate U.S. Ambassador to Norway Kenneth Braithwaite to be Navy secretary, the White House announced Friday.
If confirmed, the 27-year Navy and Navy Reserve veteran would replace Richard V. Spencer, who resigned in November over his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL found guilty of posing for photos with a dead prisoner of war.
Trump floated Braithwaite as his choice for the role after Defense Secretary Mark Esper asked for Spencer’s resignation.
“A man of great achievement and success, I know Ken will do an outstanding job!” Trump said at the time.
Undersecretary of the Navy Tom Modley has served as acting secretary since Spencer’s departure.
Esper said he lost “trust and confidence” in Spencer after he learned the Navy secretary had contradicted his public position by privately proposing to the White House that Trump allow the Navy to conduct an internal review of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher and he would then restore his rank and allow him to retire with his Trident pin.
In July, Gallagher was acquitted of war crimes charges that included murdering a teenage Islamic State captive, shooting civilians and threatening those who gave their superiors information on him during his time in Iraq. He was convicted of posing for a photo with the IS fighter’s dead body and sentenced to four months confinement and loss of rank.
The Navy’s top officer upheld the punishment last month, but Trump restored Gallagher’s rank to E-7 and later tweeted that the Navy would not remove his Trident pin.
Trump said he thanked Spencer for his service and confirmed that Gallagher will “retire peacefully with all of the honors that he has earned, including his Trident Pin.”
He said Spencer was relieved of his position due to cost overruns and his dissatisfaction with how the Navy handled the Gallagher situation.
“I was not pleased with the way that Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s trial was handled by the Navy,” Trump said via Twitter. “He was treated very badly but, despite, this, was completely exonerated on all major charges.”
In his resignation letter, Spencer said he couldn’t in good conscience continue to serve under Trump due to their conflict of opinions on the issue.
Braithwaite completed his Navy service in 2011 as vice chief of information. He was also deployed to Pakistan to support the U.S. Embassy as commanding officer of the Joint Public Affairs Expeditionary Support Element, Joint Forces Command.
Outside the military, he was group senior vice president for Vizient, executive director of Delaware Valley Healthcare Council, vice president of government affairs for Ascension Health and state director to former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa.
Braithwaite received a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Naval Academy, earned pilot wings as a naval aviator and received a master’s degree in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania.