Kenneth J. Braithwaite, a Penn graduate and the current United States Ambassador to Norway, was officially nominated as the new Secretary of the Navy on Monday. The White House announced its intention to nominate Braithwaite last Friday.
Braithwaite graduated with a master’s degree in government administration from Penn’s Fels Institute of Government in 1995 and was appointed to his ambassadorial role in October 2017. He served in the Navy in active duty from 1984 to 1993, and in the reserves from 1993 to 2011.
The role of Secretary of the Navy has assumed increased importance and attention in recent months. Richard Spencer, the last Secretary of the Navy, was fired in November 2019 by Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Spencer had proposed a private compromise to the Eddie Gallagher scandal, where a Navy SEAL who was accused of war crimes was set to be dismissed from the Navy. Spencer went directly to the White House to instead propose that Gallagher be allowed to retire from the Navy, angering Esper and leading to Spencer's forced resignation.
The White House’s announcement of its intent to proceed with Braithwaite’s nomination confirms what fellow Penn graduate and President Donald Trump announced via Twitter on the day of Spencer’s resignation. Trump thanked the outgoing Navy Secretary for his service and called Braithwaite “a man of great achievement and success” who would do “an outstanding job.”
In January, CBS News reported that Braithwaite may have failed to disclose a business partnership agreement with Cambridge Analytica, the firm that reportedly misappropriated data from Facebook profiles to lead a targeted disinformation campaign during the 2016 presidential election. Willfully failing to fully disclose job history on government forms, such as the nominee report Braithwaite submitted, is a violation of federal law.
Braithwaite denied any relationship with Cambridge Analytica that would have required him to include this information, telling CBS News that he had “discussions” with the firm but that he was “never an employee of CA, never referred any potential customers to them and never received any compensation from the company.”
Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told Politico that he is inclined to support Braithwaite, but said he has not spoken with him about his alleged connections to Cambridge Analytica.
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