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Biden nominates first woman 4-star Coast Guard admiral; nominates her as services No. 2 in command

U.S. Coast Guard Vice Adm. Linda Fagan delivers a speech at the Arctic Encounter Symposium, April 26, 2019. (U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Senior Chief Petty Officer NyxoLyno Cangemi/Released)
April 20, 2021

On Monday, President Joe Biden announced he would nominate Vice Adm. Linda L. Fagan to serve as the vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and to be promoted to the rank of admiral, making her the service’s first woman to serve as a four-star admiral.

“Today, President Biden announced his intent to nominate Vice Adm. Linda L. Fagan for appointment to the grade of Admiral and assignment as Vice Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard,” the White House tweeted. “If confirmed, Vice Adm. Fagan would be the first female four-star Admiral in Coast Guard history.”

“I am pleased that President Biden has nominated Vice Admiral Linda Fagan to be the Vice Commandant of the United States Coast Guard,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. “She is a superb leader who, as the 32nd Vice Commandant, will guide the Coast Guard at a time when its mission of securing our maritime borders, ports, and waterways has never been more important.”

“If confirmed, Vice Admiral Fagan would serve as the first woman to be promoted to a 4-star rank in the Coast Guard,” Mayorkas continued. “We are grateful to Vice Admiral Fagan for continuing her service to country, for the trail she has blazed, and for inspiring us all.”

Fagan currently serves as the commander of the Coast Guard Pacific Area, which oversees all Coast Guard missions from the Rocky Mountains to the waters off the East Coast of Africa. She concurrently serves as the commander of Defense Force West which provides Coast Guard mission support to the Department of Defense and other Combatant Commanders.

Fagan graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1985 and received the Coast Guard’s first-ever Gold Ancient Trident, for the officer with the longest service record in the Marine Safety field.

Coast Guard Commandant Karl Schultz tweeted, “Please join me in celebrating the nomination of Vice Adm. Linda Fagan for Vice Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. Pending Senate confirmation, Vice Adm. Fagan would serve as the Coast Guard’s 32nd Vice Commandant and would be the Service’s first female four-star admiral.”

During the 2020 election season, then-candidate Biden signed onto a pledge circulated by the Leadership Council for Women in National Security, to “nominate women to senior positions in national security that have never been filled by women before” and to ensure that women, and women of color in particular, are “well represented in senior ranks.”

As president, Biden has nominated several women to senior national security leadership positions.

Last week, Biden nominated Christine Wormuth, former undersecretary of defense for policy under President Barack Obama, to serve as the first woman Secretary of the Army.

In March, Biden nominated Army Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson to the rank of general to lead U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and Air Force Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost to lead the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM).

Both Richardson and Ovost were being considered for promotions during President Donald Trump’s administration, but former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper decided to delay their promotions, claiming he was concerned Trump would not back the nominations.

It’s unclear clear why Esper believed Trump would not support Richardson and Van Ovost. Trump nominated a number of women to military leadership positions during his presidency, including Barbara Barrett to the role of U.S. Air Force Secretary and Brig Gen. Lorna Mahlock, the first black woman general in U.S. Marine Corps history.