Marines aiming to take helm after Larson leaves academy Pentagon perusing list of 8, including three from Corps

January 20, 1998|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Tom Bowman contributed to this article.

At least eight top Navy and Marine Corps officers are being interviewed at the Pentagon this month as the search narrows for Naval Academy Superintendent Adm. Charles R. Larson's successor, according to academy, Navy and Marine Corps officials.

Finalists include three Marine generals. Although no Marine has been superintendent, the Marine Corps has fought in recent years for greater representation in the academy's upper tiers.

"This is an ideal opportunity to bring together a true melding of the Navy and the Marine Corps, and I hope we don't blow it," said retired Marine Brig. Gen. Tom Draude, who noted that the academy trains Navy and Marine officers.

Draude served last year on an academy-appointed review panel that suggested considering Marines for the top academy job.

As a four-star admiral and the academy's highest-ranking superintendent, Larson, who will retire June 4, was assigned in 1994 to refocus the school after a cheating scandal.

Some credit Larson with making improvements. After a string of well-publicized criminal incidents involving groups of midshipmen in 1996, there have been few such incidents on campus in recent months. The Pentagon is looking for someone who can carry on the job that Larson started.

The Pentagon is considering handing the reins to a three-star officer, either a Navy vice admiral or a Marine Corps lieutenant general. Before Larson, the job traditionally went to a two-star Navy rear admiral.

Larson's successor is expected to be named in March. All those being considered are academy graduates -- including twin brothers -- and half have served at the academy. Some are two-star officers but could be promoted to three-star rank if chosen to succeed Larson.

According to sources at the academy and the Pentagon, the list includes:

Vice Adm. Charles "Steve" Abbot, commander, 6th Fleet, Italy.

Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., former astronaut, now deputy commanding general of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; also former deputy commandant at academy.

Brig. Gen Michael W. Hagee, deputy director for operations, U.S. European Command, Germany.

Rear Adm. Michael D. Haskins, commander, U.S. naval forces in Japan; also former academy commandant.

Maj. Gen. Terrence P. Murray, deputy commander and chief of staff, U.S. forces, Japan; also former deputy commandant at academy.

Vice Adm. Robert J. Natter, commander, 7th Fleet, Japan; also former company officer and flag secretary at academy.

Rear Adm. John R. Ryan, commander, Fleet Air and Maritime Air Forces, Mediterranean.

Rear Adm. Norbert R. Ryan Jr., Navy's chief of legislative affairs, Washington.

Also mentioned as a possible candidate is Rear Adm. James R. Stark, who runs the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., and is being considered because of his academic background.

"Unlike the Air Force Academy and West Point, the Naval Academy has a very high percentage of civilian professors. And there's always been tension between the executive and the academic branches," said Richard Armitage, a former assistant secretary of defense. Larson eased some of the tensions, Armitage said, "so one thing the Navy should keep in mind is the importance of keeping someone at the helm who's academically respected as well as militarily respected."

Behind the scenes, the debate is more of a Navy-vs.-Marines conflict.

Gen. Charles Krulak, Marine Corps commandant and an academy graduate, has made no secret of his wish for a Marine superintendent. After an address last fall at the National Press Club, he said, "There's going to be a superintendent of the Naval Academy that's a Marine.

"Right now, if you took all the officers in the naval service, 25 percent of them are Marines. With that kind of thinking, probably once every four tours it will be a Marine."

Bolden, reached recently at Camp Pendleton, said, "If they're serious about the brotherhood of leadership at the Naval Academy," it's time to let a Marine run the school. "I'd love to see a Marine in that position, but I'm not sure the Navy is ready for that," he said.

Pub Date: 1/20/98

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