. President Obama has nominated Vice Adm. Bill Gortney as the next commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, a move that if approved by the Senate would likely occur this summer.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made the announcement Monday.
Gortney, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, would be promoted to admiral and replace Adm. John Harvey, who has commanded what was once known as U.S. Atlantic Fleet since July 2009. Gortney reported to the Pentagon in July 2010.
Harvey, with three years on the job come summer, is expected to retire.
Naval observers and industry insiders told Navy Times in late December that Gortney appeared to have the inside track on the job, saying he possesses the right combination of experience in preparing ships and aircraft to deploy, knowledge of overseas combatant commander requirements and understanding of wartime fleet operations.
Gortney will bring extensive experience in the war theater of operations to the job; since 2002, he’s commanded Carrier Air Wing 7 and Carrier Strike Group 10, both of which operated in the Central Command area of operations, and U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain. He also has a previous hitch at Fleet Forces Command under his belt, having served as deputy chief of staff for global force management and joint operations from 2004-2006.
Gortney’s current job is his second go-round on the Joint Staff; he worked at the J-33 Joint Operations Department, Central Command Division, from 1998-1999.
That pallet of experience, particularly in the war zones, will serve him well at the helm of Fleet Forces, says retired Vice Adm. Peter Daly, chief executive officer of the U.S. Naval Institute and a former Fleet Forces deputy commander under Harvey.
“It’s very important because Fleet Forces … generates all the forces coming off the East Coast, and also has a special responsibility for standards for training all strike groups, East and West Coast,” said Daly, reached in San Diego, where USNI is holding its annual West Coast Conference and Symposium. The commander of Fleet Forces Command, Daly said, has to be someone “who understands what it takes to get there, what’s needed and what’s required when they’re at the tip of the spear. And Bill Gortney represents that.
“He’s an affable guy, but he’s no-nonsense when it comes to the warfighting piece,” Daly said. “I think he’s an excellent choice.”
In addition to its responsibilities for manning, training and equipping all Navy forces east of the Mississippi and providing same to overseas combatant commanders, Fleet Forces Command advises the chief of naval operations on all integrated warfighter capability requirements. It also handles the Navy’s anti-terrorism/force protection, individual augmentee and sea basing programs for the CNO.
Gortney is a 1977 graduate of Elon College in North Carolina. He earned a commission in the U.S. Naval Reserve in September 1977 and, in December 1978, was designated as a naval aviator. He has flown more than 5,360 “mishap-free hours,” according to his official biography, and made 1,265 carrier-arrested landings, primarily in the A-7E Corsair II and the F/A-18 Hornet.