The Honorable Kenneth J. Braithwaite was sworn in as the 77th Secretary of the Navy May 29, 2020. He previously served as the 31st U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway.
Secretary Braithwaite graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1984 and was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy. In 1995, he earned a master’s degree in government administration, graduating with honors from the University of Pennsylvania, Fels School of Government.
The Secretary was designated a naval aviator in April 1986. His first operational assignment was to Patrol Squadron (VP) 17, Naval Air Station, Barbers Point, Hawaii, where he flew anti-submarine missions tracking adversary submarines throughout the greater Pacific and Arctic regions.
In April 1988, Secretary Braithwaite redesignated as a public affairs officer with his initial tour aboard the aircraft carrier USS America (CV 66). Additional duty assignments included Commander Carrier Group 2 and Commander, Striking Force U.S. 6th Fleet. He made both a North Atlantic Treaty Organization Force deployment to the North Atlantic operating above the Arctic Circle and a Mediterranean and Indian Ocean cruise where the battle group responded to tensions in the Persian Gulf. In 1990, he was assigned to the staff of Commander, Naval Base Philadelphia as chief of Public Affairs.
The Secretary left active duty in 1993, continuing his naval service in the Navy Reserve where he served with numerous commands along the Atlantic seaboard.
Initially he began his private sector career as an executive at Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) where he served as manager of operations for ARCO Chemical. In 1997, Secretary Braithwaite was asked to join the staff of U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) where he served as a senior advisor and state director of the Senator’s offices across the Commonwealth.
In 2000, Secretary Braithwaite was hired by St. Thomas Health Services in Nashville, Tennessee, a division of the Ascension Health, the nation’s largest hospital system, to serve as vice president of Public and Government Affairs. In 2003, he was promoted to the corporate level to establish offices in Washington, D.C. as vice president of advocacy. In 2006, he left Ascension Health to become the executive director of the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council in Philadelphia where he later led the merger with the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) to become a senior vice president of HAP.
In 2011, the Secretary was asked to join VHA, Inc., a Dallas-based hospital group purchasing and performance improvement company, initially to serve as the chief executive of the Mid-Atlantic region. In 2014, as part of the effort to acquire and merge with University Health Consortium and MedAssets, Inc., he helped create and lead the new organization, Vizient, Inc. as group senior vice president until he was asked by the President to serve as Ambassador to Norway in 2018.
Highlights of Secretary Braithwaite’s Navy service include: served as commanding officer of Navy Reserve Fleet Combat Camera Atlantic, Naval Air Station Willow Grove during which time the command was tasked with providing support to the Joint Task Force Commander, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In March 2003, Secretary Braithwaite deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom in support of naval operations to capture the port of Umm Qasr.
In 2004, Secretary Braithwaite was assigned to U.S. Joint Forces Command, and tasked with standing up a new expeditionary capability for combatant commanders, serving as the first commander of Joint Public Affairs Support Element - Reserve.
While in command, and following the devastating earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, he was deployed to Pakistan as part of the Joint Task Force for Disaster Assistance, serving as the director of strategic communication working for both the Joint Task Force Commander and the U.S. Ambassador in Islamabad.
In his final Navy assignment, the Secretary served as the first Vice Chief of Information. In this capacity, he was the Navy Reserve liaison and advisor to the Chief of Information, responsible for formulating strategic communications counsel to the leadership of the Department of the Navy.
Secretary Braithwaite’s decorations include the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal (with oak leaf cluster), Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (five awards) with Combat “V”, Navy Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and numerous campaign and service medals. However, he is most proud of having received the Navy Unit Commendation as part of the USS Guadalcanal Amphibious Readiness Group off Beirut, Lebanon in 1983 and being a part of U.S. Joint Forces Command when it was awarded a Joint Meritorious Unit Commendation in 2007.