On Wednesday, President Donald Trump nominated private equity executive Philip Bilden to the post of Secretary of the Navy, replacing outgoing leader Ray Mabus.
Bilden founded the Hong Kong branch of HarbourVest Partners, a Boston-based fund of funds, and ran its operations from 1996 to 2012. He is a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve, where he served as a military intelligence officer and attained the rank of captain.
Bilden's recent experience includes service on the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation's development committee and on the board of the Naval War College Foundation. He also serves on the board of visitors of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and the Asia Pacific Advisory Board of Harvard Business School.
“As Secretary of the Navy, Philip Bilden will apply his terrific judgement and top-notch management skills to the task of rebuilding our unparalleled Navy,” said President Trump in a statement. “Our number of ships is at the lowest point that it has been in decades. Philip Bilden is the right choice to help us expand and modernize our fleet . . . and ensure America’s naval supremacy for decades to come.”
Bilden's appointment ends speculation over whether the post would go to Representative Randy Forbes, the chairman of the House seapower subcommittee, who was widely considered the frontrunner. Forbes, a longstanding proponent of a larger fleet, was said to be the favored choice of vice president Mike Pence. He also had an unusual bipartisan endorsement from the ranking Democrat on his subcommittee, Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT).
Bilden joins Secretary of the Army nominee Vincent Viola, another investor who will help lead Trump's Department of Defense. Viola had his start trading oil and gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and in recent years he has made billions through his stake in an electronic high-frequency trading firm, Virtu.