Biden White House Nominates its First Maritime Administrator

Rear Adm. Ann C. Phillips (USN, ret'd)

Published Oct 15, 2021 11:20 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Thursday, the Biden administration announced the long-awaited nomination of its first Maritime Administrator, the director of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration. 

The post is currently held in an acting capacity by Lucinda Lessley, a former House staffmember who served on the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transport and the Committee on Homeland Security. The previous Maritime Administrator, Adm. Mark "Buzz" Buzby, resigned in protest after January 6 insurrection at the capital. Lessley has served as acting administrator for nine months while the White House discussed options for a permanent appointment.

Biden's nominee is Rear Adm. Ann Phillips, a 31-year veteran of the U.S. Navy. In the early years of her career, she served aboard the dry stores auxiliary USS San Jose and the destroyer tender USS Cape Cod during operation Desert Storm. She served as the first commanding officer of the destroyer USS Mustin, then went on to command Destroyer Squadron 28 and (most recently) Expeditionary Strike Group Two, which includes all amphibious warfare vessels on the U.S. East Coast.

On shore, she served on the Chief of Naval Operations’ Climate Change Task Force, advising on ways to make the Navy's bases and forces more resilient to climate change. She later became Director of the Surface Warfare Division (OPNAV N86), part of the Navy's planning, programming and budgeting office. 

Phillips retired from the Navy in 2014 and pursued an MBA at the College of William and Mary. In her current role, she serves as Special Assistant to the Governor of Virginia for Coastal Adaptation and Protection, working to address the impact of sea level rise and coastal flooding across the state. This portfolio includes the development of Virginia’s first Coastal Resilience Master Plan. 

If confirmed by the Senate, Rear Adm. Phillips will have an active roster of projects to address upon taking office as Maritime Administrator. First, MARAD is working hard to address a long-running pattern of alleged sexual misconduct in its Sea Year program, the onboard training program run by MARAD's U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Her office will also have to work to boost the real-world readiness of the Ready Reserve Force, MARAD's component of the government-owned sealift fleet. And like her predecessor, Rear Adm. Phillips will have to address the slow decline of the U.S. maritime workforce, which is essential to crewing American sealift ships in time of war.