Chief of Naval Operations
James D. WatkinsClass of 1949
- Cabinet Member, 1989-1993
- Chief of Naval Operations, 1982-1986
Admiral James D. Watkins led a Navy that developed a Maritime Strategy for dealing with the USSR and he deployed naval forces that managed crises worldwide. He improved the quality of life and service for Sailors.
James D. Watkins graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1949, coming to Annapolis from his native New Orleans by way of California. In the course of his thirty-seven-year naval career, he served on both surface ships and submarines and became an experienced submarine officer. Admiral Watkins 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. As Chief of Naval Operations, he left an indelible mark on the Navy through the breadth of his thinking and his interest in the individual Sailor. During his tenure, naval forces 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. This effort addressed an era he described as one of "violent peace" with a new American, forward-thinking and forward-deployed Maritime Strategy. At home he sought to improve the lot of the individual Sailor with support for families, a call to excellence, and practical measures to increase their compensations.