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Boorda Picked as Nominee for Top Navy Job

March 15, 1994|ART PINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — President Clinton on Monday nominated Adm. Jeremy Michael Boorda, commander of the allied air armada enforcing the allied ultimatum in Bosnia, to become chief of naval operations, replacing retiring Adm. Frank B. Kelso II as the Navy's top uniformed officer.

Kelso, 60, is stepping down April 30, two months ahead of schedule, as part of a negotiated agreement in which Defense Secretary William J. Perry issued a statement that effectively cleared the admiral in the Tailhook sex harassment scandal.

Boorda, 55, is a respected 39-year veteran who joined the service as an enlisted man and rose to become commander of all allied forces in southern Europe. He is a close associate of Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Administration officials are hoping that the change of command at the top will finally put an end to the Tailhook scandal, which began at a 1991 convention of Navy and Marine Corps pilots in Las Vegas and has resulted in disciplinary actions for dozens of high-ranking and middle-level officers.

Boorda, a former destroyer officer, is known for his interest in personnel issues and his skills in dealing with the Washington bureaucracy. He can appear tough, as he did during the days leading up to the deadline the North Atlantic Treaty Organization set last month for the withdrawal of Bosnian Serb artillery from the area around Sarajevo.

It was under Boorda's direction that U.S. warplanes downed four Serb fighters that had violated the no-fly zone over Bosnia on Feb. 28--the first time in NATO's 44-year history that its forces have fired a shot in combat.

Kelso, a former submarine officer, initially had been cleared of any direct involvement in the Tailhook incident, during which dozens of women allegedly were molested or assaulted by Navy and Marine aviators.

In February, however, Kelso appeared likely to face a new round of questioning after a Navy judge accused him lying and of attempting to manipulate the investigation.

Although Defense Department officials disagreed, they said the Navy would be better off if Kelso left earlier than scheduled. Perry proposed Boorda for the job within hours of Kelso's announcement.

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