WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Retired Navy Admiral James D. Watkins, the 22nd Chief of Naval Operations, passed away July 26. He was 85.
"Few have lived as full or accomplished a life as Adm. Watkins," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. "Although we mourn his passing, we celebrate his accomplishments not only as a consummate Naval Officer and public servant, but also as a man who understood the importance of taking care of the entire Navy family."
A 1949 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Watkins became CNO June 30, 1982 and served until June 30, 1986 during the height of the Cold War. A career submariner, he also commanded the U.S. Sixth Fleet and later the U.S. Pacific Fleet. He also served as Chief of Naval Personnel and Vice Chief of Naval Operations.
"Adm. Watkins served the nation, leading Sailors during some of our nation's most trying and challenging times from 1949 to 1986," said Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert. "His strategic approach to safeguarding our national security and interests at sea set a precedent for generations to come. Adm. Watkins was an innovative thinker who pushed our Navy forward. He was known for developing a Maritime Strategy for dealing with the U.S.S.R. and improving the quality of life for Sailors and their families. We will always remember the life and honorable service of a great shipmate."
As CNO, Watkins led a Navy that operated in support of national objectives in Grenada, Lebanon, and the Persian Gulf. Appreciating that changes were occurring in the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War, he initiated a review of American naval strategy. He precipitated a renaissance in naval operational thought that encouraged a new generation of officers to become more deeply involved.
After retiring from the Navy he led a very active life. In 1987 he chaired President Reagan's Commission on the HIV Epidemic. Known as "The Watkins Commission," it investigated the AIDS epidemic and eventually recommended support for increased AIDS research, laws protecting HIV-positive people, and treatment of drug addiction.
On March 9, 1989, Watkins was sworn in as Secretary of Energy by President George Bush. As Energy Secretary, he developed a ten-point plan to strengthen environmental protection and waste management activities at the Department of Energy, established the Office of Environmental Restoration and Waste Management, and, recognizing American dependence on foreign oil, instituted policy designed to increase oil production and decrease consumption to counter Iraqi-Kuwaiti oil losses caused by the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait. He remained in his position as Energy Secretary until 1993.
The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy became the second presidential commission chaired by Watkins. Established by The Oceans Act of 2000 on Jan. 20, 2001, the commission was charged with developing a comprehensive national ocean policy including governance, research, education, marine operations, stewardship, and investment. It conducted hearings and research before producing its final report, "An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century" on Sept. 20, 2004.
Watkins is survived by his wife Janet and his six children.