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Admiral set to lead Navy rejects job and retires amid judgment concerns

Admiral William Moran attends Side By Side: A Celebration Of Service on May 25.
Admiral William Moran. Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images

Adm. William Moran, the Navy’s choice to become the chief of Naval Operations and join the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has rejected the position and announced his retirement, AP reported Sunday.

The big picture: Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said he accepted the four-star admiral's request to retire after Moran told him of his professional relationship with someone "who was held accountable and counseled for failing to meet the values and standards of the Naval profession," per AP. It caused Spencer to "call his judgment into question."

Details: Moran said in a statement to news outlets he reached his decision "based on an open investigation into the nature of some of my personal email correspondence over the past couple of years and for continuing to maintain a professional relationship with a former staff officer, now retired, who had while in uniform been investigated and held accountable over allegations of inappropriate behavior."

"To be clear, my decision to maintain this relationship was in no way an endorsement or tacit approval of this kind of conduct. I understand how toxic it can be to any team when inappropriate behavior goes unrecognized and unchecked. Every Sailor is entitled to serve in an environment free of harassment or intimidation."
— Adm. William Moran statement

The big picture: The person at the heart of the matter was not named, but officials told AP, NBC News and the Washington Post that Moran is retiring because of his association with Chris Servello.

  • Servello was removed from his position as the spokesman for Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, in 2017 amid allegations that he behaved inappropriately toward women while dressed as Santa Claus at a December 2016 Navy Christmas party.
  • An investigating officer said in a report obtained by USA Today that Servello had shown a pattern of using his professional reputation and community standing "as an advantage in attempting to develop sexual relationships."

What's next? Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson will stay on until a new CNO is nominated, according to NBC News, citing defense officials. The law prevents Richardson from serving as CNO for more than 4 years, a date he will reach on Sept. 17, NBC News notes.