WASHINGTON — The four-star admiral set to become the Navy’s top officer on Aug. 1 will instead retire, an extraordinary downfall prompted by what Navy Secretary Richard Spencer on Sunday called poor judgment regarding a professional relationship.
The sudden move by Adm. William Moran may add to the perception of turmoil in the Pentagon’s senior ranks, coming less than a month after Pat Shanahan abruptly withdrew from consideration to be defense secretary after serving as the acting secretary for six months.
Leaders of the individual military services, both civilian and uniformed, play less critical roles in national security than the defense secretary, and they are not in the chain of military command. But they are responsible for ensuring that the armed forces are trained, equipped and prepared.
Moran had been vetted for promotion to the top uniformed position in the Navy, nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate in May to succeed Adm. John Richardson as chief of naval operations and as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Moran said in a written statement Sunday evening that he told Spencer he decided to decline his appointment as the next chief of naval operations and requested to be allowed to retire.
“Adm. Bill Moran recently brought to my attention that over the past two years he maintained a professional relationship with an individual who was held accountable and counseled for failing to meet the values and standards of the Naval profession,” Spencer said in a written statement Sunday evening. “While I admire his faithful service and commitment to the Navy, this decision on his part to maintain that relationship has caused me to call his judgment into question. Therefore, today I accepted Adm. Moran’s request to retire.”