WASHINGTON -- The four-star admiral set to become the Navy's next chief on Aug. 1 will instead retire, citing an ongoing ethics investigation into his relationship with a subordinate.
Adm. William 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.
Instead, Moran said in a written statement Sunday evening that he told Navy Secretary Richard Spencer that he decided to decline his appointment and requested that he be allowed to retire.
"As painful as it is to submit my request to retire, I will not be an impediment whatsoever to the important service that you and your families continue to render the nation every day," Moran wrote.
In a statement, Spencer said Moran showed poor judgment regarding his professional relationship, though he added that Moran "has served this country honorably for decades" and praised him and his family "for the years of dedicated service."
"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."
Senior Navy officials said Spencer learned of this relationship only after Moran's Senate confirmation in May. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive details.
Although Moran did not mention the person by name in the statement, and Spencer provided no identifying details, two Defense Department officials identified the subordinate as Chris Servello, who was formerly Richardson's public affairs officer. Both department officials spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Servello was accused of harassing female colleagues at a Christmas party in 2016 while dressed as Santa. The incident was first reported by USA Today in 2017. Servello retired from the Navy last May at the rank of commander.
The officials said Moran had recently taken public affairs counsel from Servello.
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 for combat and other roles.
In an interview Sunday evening, Servello said he was aware of Moran's decision to retire.
"It's hard not to feel disappointment and disbelief," he said. "This is terrible news for the Navy, and beyond that, I don't have anything to add."
Moran said his decision to retire was based also on what he called an open investigation into "the nature of some of my personal email correspondence over the past couple of years." He also cited the Servello relationship, without using his name.
"To be clear," Moran added, "my decision to maintain this relationship was in no way an endorsement or tacit approval of" the kind of misconduct for which Servello was disciplined.
"I understand how toxic it can be to any team when inappropriate behavior goes unrecognized and unchecked," he wrote. "Every Sailor is entitled to serve in an environment free of harassment or intimidation."
With Moran's departure, Richardson will extend his tenure as Navy chief, and Spencer said he would recommend a new candidate for nomination by Trump and consideration by the Senate. Richardson's official retirement date is in September.
Information for this article was contributed by Robert Burns of The Associated Press; and by Thomas Gibbons-Neff of The New York Times.
A Section on 07/09/2019
Print Headline: Navy chief-in-waiting to retire