The United States Navy

Admiral William J. Fallon
United States Navy
Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command

Adm. Fallon portraitAdmiral William J. Fallon was raised in Merchantville, N.J. A 1967 graduate of Villanova University, he received his commission through the Navy ROTC Program and was designated a naval flight officer upon completion of flight training in December 1967.

Adm. Fallon began his Naval Aviation service flying in the RA-5C Vigilante with a combat deployment to Vietnam, transitioning to the A-6 Intruder in 1974. He served in flying assignments with Attack Squadrons and Carrier Air Wings for twenty-four years, deploying to the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans embarked in USS Saratoga, USS Ranger, USS Nimitz, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USS Theodore Roosevelt. He has logged more than 1,300 carrier arrested landings and 4,800 flight hours in tactical jet aircraft.

Adm. Fallon commanded Attack Squadron Sixty Five embarked in USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Medium Attack Wing One at NAS Oceana, Va., and Carrier Air Wing Eight in USS Theodore Roosevelt during a combat deployment to the Arabian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Assigned as Commander, Carrier Group Eight in 1995, he deployed to the Mediterranean as Commander, Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group and commanded Battle Force Sixth Fleet (CTF 60) during NATO’s combat Operation Deliberate Force in Bosnia. Adm. Fallon served as Commander, Second Fleet and Commander, Striking Fleet Atlantic from November 1997 to September 2000.

Shore duties included assignment as Aide and Flag Lieutenant to the Commander, Fleet Air Jacksonville, and to the staffs of Commander, Reconnaissance Attack Wing One; Commander, Operational Test Force, and Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. He has served as Deputy Director for Operations, Joint Task Force, Southwest Asia in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and as Deputy Director, Aviation Plans and Requirements on the Staff of the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, D.C. His first flag officer assignment was with NATO as Assistant Chief of Staff, Plans and Policy for Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic. He was then assigned as Deputy and Chief of Staff, U.S. Atlantic Fleet followed by assignment as Deputy Commander in Chief and Chief of Staff, U.S. Atlantic Command. Adm. Fallon served as the 31st Vice Chief of Naval Operations from October 2000 to August 2003.

Adm. Fallon is a graduate of the Naval War College, Newport, R.I., the National War College in Washington, D.C., and has a Master of Arts Degree in International Studies from Old Dominion University. His awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, and various unit and campaign decorations.


International Herald Tribune - June 04, 2008

Fallon Breaks Silence on His Dissent

His friends call him Fox, and for years William Fallon was considered one of America's most successful four-star admirals, serving most recently as the commander of military operations in the territory stretching from the Horn of Africa across Central Asia.

Now, the 63-year-old former aviator is struggling with reinvention, nudged into early retirement in March after a 40-year naval career because of frank talk that left the perception that he was disloyal to his commander in chief.

Breaking his silence since his departure in an hour-long interview, Fallon said he had felt the pressure building for several months.

He had, after all, taken public positions favoring diplomacy over force in Iran, greater troop withdrawals from Iraq than officially planned and more high-level attention to Afghanistan.

But the catalyst for his departure was not a policy disagreement with the White House, he said, but an article in Esquire magazine earlier this year that portrayed him as the man standing between President George W. Bush and war against Iran.

If the admiral's comments had been kept behind the closed doors of the White House and the Pentagon, he might have survived. The problem was that in the highly hierarchical world of the military, in which the cardinal rule is to salute - not break ranks with - the president, his dissent simply was too public.

The admiral claims not to have been misquoted, but rather misunderstood.

"There was a huge perception that I was publicly at odds with the president, which was not true," he said. "I had serious concerns that my subordinates - my Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines - had that perception.

"It put me in a difficult position. I felt very uncomfortable."

But he conceded that he had shaken the Central Command, which is based in Tampa, Florida, after he arrived in March 2007, both by making crystal clear that he, and not the battlefield commanders, was in charge and by making changes that rankled people, both in and out of the military.

His management style was criticized; his on-the-record comments about policy raised eyebrows.

Some of the issues were petty. Others were more substantive, like an ambitious job-reduction effort aimed at slashing the command's 3,400 personnel and assigning his own people to review others' decisions.

"I wanted us to get focused on Iraq and Afghanistan at a high level, not just rubber-stamping every request, or whatever that was coming out of Baghdad," he said. Acknowledging an impatient streak, he added, "this was not the time to be sitting around clinking teacups."

He was not helped by the fact that he was a navy man with overall responsibility over two wars involving American ground troops, and a commander with a reputation for liberal leanings in a hawkish administration.

As commander of the Pacific Command between 2005 and 2007, he was criticized by conservatives for cozying up to China at a time when that country was rapidly modernizing its armed forces. During his one-year tenure as head of the Central Command, he proposed a navy- to-navy relationship with Iran as a way to begin a sustained dialogue with the country after nearly three decades without diplomatic relations, Bush administration officials said, speaking anonymously according to normal diplomatic rules.

The proposal was not revolutionary; other commanders had floated such an idea before. But it was quickly rejected by the White House as rewarding Tehran, the officials said.

Fallon declined to discuss the initiative, although he acknowledges that he favors dialogue and patience, not war, with Iran, and that the navy could provide a way to begin the process.

"In the conduct of daily business we routinely have excellent communications with the Iranian Navy," he said. "When the conditions are right it might be a reasonable way of interaction - to build on existing maritime communications."

Even now, he defends his public statements on Iran that stress diplomacy over the use of force. "People tend to look at things in black and white - we're going to love Iran or attack Iran," he said. "That is a very simplistic way to approach a complex problem."

He said he found it impossible to convince people that stories about disputes with David Petraeus, the four-star U.S. Army general who was commander in Iraq and replaced him at the Central Command when he retired, were overblown. "He's a smart guy," Fallon said.

But then, he acknowledged that there had been differences, and did not contradict reports that at one point Petraeus had wanted as many troops on the ground in Iraq as possible, while he had favored substantial troop reductions.

"Did we agree on everything? No," he said of their relationship. "Did he want everything? Yes. And that's just the way it is. But we talked just about every day." Fallon added, "He's an army guy, a bit more rigid, less risk."

As the operational commander with day-to-day responsibilities for Iraq, Petraeus enjoyed a direct line of communication with the White House, which Fallon, the strategic overseer, did not. So there was also the pecking-order problem. Fallon's departure from the military was so abrupt that he veers between the present and past in discussing his old job.

"I was Petraeus's boss," he said. "I asked a lot of questions, which is my nature. And the answers better match up with what I have seen."

Asked about a Washington newspaper column that said he was squeezed out because he was "rigid" and "overbearing," he replied, "I don't tolerate fools. I challenge every briefing and pitch. If people present me with only one solution to the problem, I'm the type to reject it immediately."

This is, he said, "a no-nonsense business. I'm not getting paid to be a nice guy."

Fallon began his military career through the navy's Reserve Officer Training Program, which he joined to pay his way through Villanova University in Philadelphia. He flew combat missions during the Vietnam War, commanded a carrier air wing in the 1991 Gulf war and later led the naval battle group supporting NATO operations in Bosnia. Along the way he developed diplomatic skills, taking the unusual step in 2001, for example, of apologizing to Japan and to the relatives of those killed in the accidental sinking of a Japanese fishing trawler by a U.S. submarine.

The rawness of his transition to private life was revealed in his public coming out as the keynote speaker at a terrorism conference at New York University's Center on Law and Security in Florence in May.

"I have to confess to - how should I put this - a bit of uncertainty in my own future, because until a few weeks ago I had things pretty orderly in front of me," he said. But those in the audience who said they were expecting insider-tells-all revelations about the terrorist threat came away disappointed.

In the interview, he declined to criticize directly current policies, although he urged the next administration to focus more on strategic planning.

"We need to have a well thought-out game plan for engagement in the world that we adjust regularly and that has some system of checks and balances built into it," he said. He is thinking about writing a book, but jokes that such a project could pose a challenge. In his Catholic high school in Camden, New Jersey, he wanted to take third-year-Latin. So he never learned how to type.