Mike Carpentier, right, Trident Refit Facility, Bangor’s (TRFB) repair superintendent discusses ballistic missile submarine refits with the Program Executive Officer for Strategic Submarines, Rear Adm. Scott Pappano, center, during his visit to TRFB. (U.S. Navy photo by Michael Hatfield/released)

WASHINGTON — The Navy today announced Rear Adm. Scott Pappano, the long-time submarine program manager and executive officer, has been tapped for the role of military advisor to the service’s acquisition executive and, if confirmed, will receive a third star.

Pappano is currently serving as the program executive officer for strategic submarines, which oversees the construction of the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines. He was selected for that job in 2019 by then-Navy acquisition executive Hondo Geurts, who initiated a reorganization of the service’s submarine acquisition directorate at that time.

Pappano’s new job is formally called the principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition. The three-star billet is both unique and wide-ranging in its jurisdiction overseeing the service’s acquisition enterprises.

“That job in a lot of ways is sort of whatever the [acquisition executive] wants it to be,” said Bryan Clark, a fellow at the Hudson Institute and retired Navy submariner. “You don’t really have your own independent portfolio… As the [acquisition deputy] — whatever the ASN RDA needs you to do is what you do.”

That flexibility, and Pappano’s experience, will likely prove useful to the Navy at a time where submarine construction and industrial base management has taken center stage for the service as it continues work on the trilateral defense pact between the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.

Clark said Pappano’s predecessor, Vice Adm. Frank Morley, had taken an outsized role in the military deputy position because of the delay in the Senate confirming Nicholas Guertin as the acquisition executive — prior to Guertin taking the office in December 2023, it hadn’t been filled by a confirmed civilian since Guerts left in August 2021.

“[Morley] was obviously viewed as having a lot of the authority of the office,” Clark said. But now that Guertin is confirmed, “it allows Nick [Guertin] to choose how he wants to deploy Scott [Pappano] in support of their objectives. Clearly by bringing up a submariner and a guy with a lot of experience in ship construction and supply chain management, I think that that tells you right there that I think he looks at maybe putting Scott in charge of the submarine industrial base and broader supply chain improvements.”