Rear Adm. Franken assumed the post of Chief of Legislative Affairs for the Secretary of the Navy in June 2012. In that position, he serves as the principal liaison between members of Congress and the Department of the Navy leadership.
Franken’s previous flag assignments include command of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HoA) from May 2011 to May 2012, and vice director, Strategy, Plans, and Policy (J5) at U.S. Central Command from July 2008 to March 2011.
His formative operational assignments consisted of postings on guided missile destroyers. He was the first commanding officer of USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), and took the ship through work up training with the Royal Navy. His postings in USS King (DDG 41), USS Dahlgren (DDG 43), USS Barry (DDG 52), and Churchill garnered multiple Battle "E" decorations. As commodore, he commanded Destroyer Squadron 28 and Commander, Task Group 152.0 in the Eisenhower Strike Group from 2005 to 2007.
Ashore, Franken served in four operational staff positions ranging from a readiness squadron to a four-star fleet command. He also served in the Office of Secretary of the Navy, in four other Navy staff positions, and in the Joint Staff as U.S. Pacific Command division chief and deputy JOD chief in the Joint Operations Directorate (J3). He presented the worldwide orders book to Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 2003 to 2005, and was the first military officer to serve as a military legislative fellow for the late Senator Ted Kennedy. He authored past Navy posture statements in the Chief of Naval Operations' Executive Panel and congressional testimonies in Navy’s Deep Blue. He served as an executive assistant or chief of staff four times.
Franken was raised in rural Iowa. 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 and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Seminar XXI.