Chief of Naval Operations

Chief of Naval Operations
Flag of the United States Chief of Naval Operations.svg
Flag of the Chief of Naval Operations
Admiral John M. Richardson (CNO).jpg
Incumbent
Admiral John M. Richardson

since 18 September 2015
Department of the Navy
AbbreviationCNO
Member ofJoint Chiefs of Staff
Reports toSecretary of Defense
Secretary of the Navy
AppointerThe President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length4 years
Renewable
Constituting instrument§ 5033
Formation11 May 1915
First holderADM William S. Benson
DeputyOfficial 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 (§ 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 (§ 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.

Responsibilities

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 § 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 § 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 § 151 and § 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]

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