A businessman, diplomat and career US Naval Officer, Kenneth J. Braithwaite of Pennsylvania was the first US Navy Flag Officer (Admiral) to serve as Secretary of the Navy. He previously served as the 31st U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway where he significantly strengthened the relationship between the US and Norway and brought greater attention to the Arctic.
Secretary Braithwaite graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1984 and later earned a master’s degree in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania, Fels School of Government. The Secretary served as a naval aviator, flying anti-submarine patrol missions tracking adversary submarines in the Pacific and Arctic regions.
Later redesignated as a public affairs officer, he served aboard the aircraft carrier USS America (CV 66) with additional duty assignments to Carrier Group 2, Striking Force U.S. 6th Fleet and Chief of Public Affairs at Naval Base Philadelphia.
The Secretary left active duty in 1993, continuing his naval service in the Navy Reserve where he served as Commanding Officer of Navy Combat Camera Atlantic and standing up Joint Public Affairs Support Element – Joint Forces Command as its first commander. Secretary Braithwaite deployed in 2003 for Operation Iraqi Freedom in support of naval operations to capture the port of Umm Qasr, and later in 2005 to Pakistan as part of the Joint Task Force for Disaster Assistance. In his final Navy assignment, Secretary Braithwaite served as the first Vice Chief of Information.
Secretary Braithwaite’s civilian career has included executive leadership roles in the health care and petroleum industries as well serving as a senior advisor to U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA).
As Secretary of the Navy, Braithwaite led the Navy and Marine Corps through the COVID-19 Pandemic, maintained readiness, enhanced global partnerships, and sustained a forward maritime posture while keeping personnel and their families safe. Under his leadership, the Navy and Marine Corps partnered with the United States Coast Guard to produce the first ever Tri-Service Maritime Strategy, “Advantage at Sea”. He also expanded the Department’s preparation for the emerging Arctic theater and modernized the Department’s force structure championing the establishment of an Atlantic and First Fleet, to protect the Nation against the rise of Great Power Competition.
An devout advocate for organizational culture, Braithwaite reinvigorated the Department of the Navy’s emphasis on core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment. He also strengthened connections between the past and the future through the announcement of and an investment in a new National Museum of the United States Navy, and historic ship name designations such as the CONSTELLATION-class frigate, named for the original six frigates that established the United States as a global maritime force in 1794.