Vice Admiral Michael T. Franken was raised in rural Iowa as the youngest of nine children. He is the 1981 distinguished Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps graduate from the College of Engineering at the University of Nebraska and obtained a Master of Science from the College of Physics at the Naval Postgraduate School. He is a graduate of the Brookings Institute, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Seminar XXI program, and various other executive education courses.
Franken’s previous flag assignments include service as the initial director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) special assistant to the director of the Navy Staff, interim Joint Staff J5 chief of staff, the Department of the Navy chief of Legislative Affairs from 2012 to 2014; command of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HoA) in Djibouti, Africa, from 2011 to 2012; and vice director, Strategy, Plans, and Policy (J5) at U.S. Central Command from 2008 to 2011.
His formative operational assignments were in guided missile destroyers. He was the first commanding officer of USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), and served aboard USS King (DDG 41), USS Dahlgren (DDG 43), and USS Barry (DDG 52). As commodore, he commanded Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 28 and commander, Task Group 152.0 for the Eisenhower Strike Group from 2005 to 2007.
Franken is U.S. Africa Command’s Deputy for Military Operations. He is responsible to the commander for promoting the national security interests of the United States by strengthening the security capabilities of African nations, to include the conduct of military operations that create an environment conducive to development and responsible governance.
Ashore, Franken served in operational staffs ranging from a readiness squadron to a four-star fleet command. He served multiple tours in the Office of the Secretary of the Navy, on the Navy Staff, and in the Joint Staff. He presented the worldwide orders book to the Secretary of Defense from 2003 to 2005, and was the first military officer to serve as a military legislative fellow for the late Senator Edward Kennedy.