Admiral confirmed to head U.S. Navy abruptly retires instead

Adm. William Moran
(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Four-star Adm. William Moran unexpectedly announced his retirement Sunday, two months after the Senate confirmed him as the U.S. Navy's top uniformed officer and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff starting Aug. 1. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said in a statement that "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," and "that relationship has caused me to call his judgment into question."

Spencer did not identify the individual, but other officials said Moran had sought public affairs counsel from retired Cmdr. Chris Servello, removed as top spokesman for current Navy Chief of Operations Adm. John Richardson in 2017 after making unwanted sexual advances on female junior officers while dressed as Santa at a 2016 Christmas party. He was allowed to retire last May. "It's hard not to feel disappointment and disbelief," Servello told The Associated Press. "This is terrible news for the Navy, and beyond that, I don't have anything to add."

After a Pentagon inspector general found last October that Richardson had been too slow in removing Servello, Spencer had said he was "completely confident" in Richardson's abilities and found he had done an "outstanding job."

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Richardson will now stay on as the Navy's top admiral past his scheduled retirement Sept. 1, until Spencer submits a new candidate for President Trump's approval and nomination. Moran's sudden resignation comes amid churn at the Pentagon, which hasn't had a Senate-confirmed defense secretary since December, AP notes. Acting Secretary Pat Shanahan withdrew from consideration in June, and Trump hasn't formally nominated current acting Secretary Mark Esper, the former Army secretary. There is also no confirmed deputy defense secretary, and other top military positions are about to turn over.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.