Adm. John Richardson on Friday took command as the Navy’s 31st chief of naval operations, relieving outgoing CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert.

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson, the 31st CNO. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Laird)
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson, the 31st CNO. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Laird).

Richardson takes the reins of the Navy at a time of increased acquisition activity as it tries to grow from 278 to 308 ships. Analysts predict that the service’s shipbuilding budget will be strained as the service fields new Ford-class carriers, Littoral Combat Ships, the more lethal frigate variant LCS as well as the Ohio-replacement submarine.  It also is slated to buy more Arleigh-Burke-class destroyers and Virginia-class attack submarines.

The new CNO didn’t mention these challenges during his speech made at the change-of-command ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. However, he alluded to increased maritime activity by China and other U.S. competitors.

Because so many nations are growing their naval power, it will be important for the United States to protect its own interests at sea, Richardson said.

“As it has been forever, when nations become strong enough to have global ambitions, it’s only a matter of time before they turn the sea to enhance their prosperity and security,” he said. “For only the second time in the last 70 years, things are getting sporty for us and other nations who have global ambitions.”

He also talked about the importance of securing the “global information system.”

The Navy must continue pushing the limits of technology in areas such as submarines, electronic warfare capabilities, long-range anti-ship missiles, the electromagnetic rail gun and unmanned systems, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said at the ceremony. That means the service must focus “more on posture, not on only on presence, more on new capabilities, not only on ship numbers.”

Richardson was a clear choice to lead the Navy’s efforts in those areas, he added.

“He’s a bold and innovative thinker, a tremendous leader and the go-to officer for many of the Navy’s tough issues in recent years,” Carter said. “He’s been its best troubleshooter, from handling problems of integrity and ethics to preparing for the Ohio-class replacement ballistic missile submarine, to leading the Navy’s advanced capability efforts. We need to get all of that right in the years ahead.”

Richardson was formerly the director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, a position he took in 2012. He was born in Petersburg, Va., and graduated with a degree in physics from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982. 

Like his predecessor Greenert, Richardson spent most of his Navy career as a submariner, serving on the USS Parche (SSN-683), USS George C. Marshall (SSBN-654) and USS Salt Lake City (SSN- 716). Afterward, he held positions including commander of Submarine Allied Naval Forces South, deputy commander of U.S. 6th Fleet, chief of staff of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and U.S. Naval Forces Africa and commander of Naval Submarine Forces.

During the ceremony, Carter and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus offered praise for Greenert’s tenure as CNO.

Carter said Greenert was one of the first people at the Pentagon that recognize the capability gap that could develop between the United States and high-end potential opponents, and credited him  with pushing advancements in information dominance and cyber defense, as well as putting 3D printers on ships.

Mabus said Greenert understood the importance of getting technologies quickly into the hands of sailors.