Advisory board

Admiral (Ret.) John Richardson


Former Chief Naval Officer

Admiral John Richardson graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 and served 37 years in the U.S. Navy, completing his service as the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), the top officer in the Navy.

While in the Navy, Richardson served in the submarine force, serving in four submarines. He commanded the attack submarine USS HONOLULU in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Richardson was awarded the Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale Inspirational Leadership Award for his time in command of USS Honolulu. He went on to command at every level of the Navy.

While in the Navy, Richardson also served as naval aide to the President of the United States, the teacher for all prospective submarine commanding officers, and a Director of Strategy and Policy.

Richardson served as the Director of Naval Reactors from 2012 until 2015. In this capacity, he was responsible for the design, safety, certification, operating standards, material control, maintenance, disposal, and regulatory oversight of over 100 nuclear power plants operating on nuclear-powered warships deployed around the world.

He served as the 31st Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) from 2015 until August 2019. The CNO is responsible for the current and future readiness and operational effectiveness of the U.S. Navy: 600,000 Sailors and civilians, a $160B budget, over 70 installations, 290 warships, and over 2000 aircraft deployed worldwide. Richardson retired from the Navy in August 2019.

Since leaving the Navy, Richardson has joined the Board of Directors for The Exelon Corporation and The Boeing Company. He also serves on the Boards of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Center for New American Security.

Richardson graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 with a Bachelor of Science in physics. He also holds master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and a master’s degree in national security strategy from the National War College.

Expert in Safety, Regulation, and Oversight of Complex, High-Risk Systems

  • As Director of Naval Reactors, was responsible for lifecycle management of over 100 nuclear power plants operating on nuclear-powered warships deployed around the world, including making port calls in foreign ports.

  • The nuclear responsibilities also included two land-based training and prototype reactor sites, two extensive land-based spent fuel and radioactive material handling and storage facilities, and oversight of two Department of Energy laboratories.

  • Dual lines of authority. Reported directly to the Secretary of the Navy for operational authorities, and reported to the Secretary of Energy for regulation and oversight authorities.

  • Included safety, design, certification, operating standards, regulation, oversight, material control and maintenance, and disposal at the end of useful life.

  • The position also included recruiting, training, oversight, and regulation of all personnel in the program, including conducting extensive training events to prepare for accident response with local, federal, and international authorities.

  • This program has a peerless safety record, achieving over 5000 operational reactor years with no safety accidents.

Led Global Operations

  • Since 1999, has led at increasing levels of complexity, responsibility, and accountability – from command of a nuclear attack submarine to becoming the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), the senior officer in the U.S. Navy; essentially equivalent to the CEO.

  • As CNO, was responsible for the current and future readiness and operational effectiveness of the U.S. Navy: 600,000 Sailors and civilians, a $160B budget, over 70 installations, 290 warships and over 2000 aircraft, deployed worldwide.

  • Responsible for recruiting, training, equipping, certifying the personnel and material resources of the U.S. Navy.

  • Worked at the highest levels of US Government leadership (Executive and Legislative branches), international leadership, and defense industry leadership.

  • Coordinated and collaborated with international chiefs of Navy to ensure that military partnerships advanced, particularly in information sharing, communications, cybersecurity, training, and operations.

Led the Recovery after Major Crises

  • Led the recovery after several major crises, including the Washington Navy Yard shooting incident, a cheating scandal in the nuclear navy training school, the Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) contracting scandal, and two collisions of US Navy warships with foreign-flagged merchant vessels at sea.

  • Recovery included managing operational implications, investigations, identification of root causes, implementing corrective action, holding people accountable, promulgation and sharing of lessons learned, coordinating with other investigative bodies, managing media relations, conducting congressional briefs and testimony, and managing international legal and diplomatic implications.

  • In each case, the corrective program resulted in full recovery from each incident in a much more safe, effective, and fault-resistant posture while maintaining the confidence of the Sailors in the Navy, U.S. leadership, and the international community.

Designed and Implemented a New Strategy to Address the Emerging Security Environment

  • Changed the strategic direction of the Navy to prepare for global great-power competition.

  • Adjusted the budget to eliminate programs that were not consistent with the new strategic direction in favor of funding new programs to meet the new challenge.

  • Greatly improved the Navy’s approach to information warfare, including cybersecurity and operations.

  • Updated the training standards for the fleet to be consistent with the demands of the new strategy. Included upgrading boot camp standards, advanced fleet operations and certifications, and senior leader development.

  • Held leaders accountable for achieving their strategic performance goals.

  • Accelerated the material acquisition system to deliver capability on a relevant timeframe. Included developing a rapid acquisition system that advanced a new unmanned aircraft carrier-based tanker aircraft, a new fast frigate, directed energy weapons systems, new offensive and defensive missile systems, and unmanned surface and subsurface families of vehicles.

Redesigned Leader Development in the Navy

  • Revised the leader development curriculum in the Navy to strengthen the emphasis on competence, character, and community in leader development and performance.

  • Started new courses in operational leadership and senior (C-suite) leadership to address gaps in development.

  • Introduced the emerging field of Decision Science into the leader development courses to move the Navy towards a more evidence-based, scientific approach to decision making.

  • Created the new position of Diversity and Inclusion Advisor as a direct-report to ensure that leadership in the Navy was more aware of the competitive advantage that diversity, inclusion, and belonging can bring.

  • Revised the evaluation system to ensure consistency with the priorities of the Navy’s leader development goals.