In November 2020, CNO and Mrs. Gilday installed a new exhibit entitled “Celebrating Navy Women: Perseverance and Achievements” in the Tingey House. The pioneers proudly served their country and 2021, the Naval History and Heritage Command will be sharing their stories.
WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
Susan Morrisey Livingstone was the first woman to serve as Acting Secretary of the Navy. She served in this role from January 24th to February 7th, 2003.
Livingstone grew up in an Air Force family, moving to different bases every couple of years. In 1968 she married Neil C. Livingstone. In 1970, Acting Secretary Livingstone started working for Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield. Her husband worked for Senator Symington. Both wanted to go to graduate school so they applied to Tufts University as a married couple and were accepted. After graduation, the couple moved back to Washington DC in 1973 and for the next eight years, Acting Secretary Livingstone worked as a Hill staffer for Congressman Ichord and Congressman Bailey.
In 1981, Acting SecretaryLivingstone joined the Reagan Administration as the Deputy Director (Legislative Liaison), Community Services Administration. Later that year, she moved to the Veterans Administration and served in a number of positions including Associate Deputy Administrator for Logistics and Associate Deputy Administrator for Management.
In 1989, Acting Secretary Livingstone was nominated to be the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Logistics and Environment. She served in this role from November 1989 until January 1993. As the Assistant Secretary, Livingstone was responsible for a wide range of programs including military construction, installation management, energy and environmental issues, domestic disaster relief and restoration of public infrastructure to the people of Kuwait following Operation Desert Storm.
After leaving federal service, Acting Secretary Livingstone worked for the Red Cross as the Vice President for Health and Safety Services. Her next job was serving as the Chief Executive Officer of the Association of the United States Army.
President Bush was elected in November 2000 and shortly thereafter, Acting Secretary Livingstone was asked to apply for a job at the Department of Defense. Then Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld had a policy of not letting former political appointees go “home” (i.e. serve in the same service they had worked for previously) so Livingstone was selected to be the Undersecretary of the Navy.
In July 2001, the Senate Armed Services Committee met to consider Acting Secretary Livingstone’s nomination. In his prepared statement, Senator John Warner shared that the Department of the Navy would welcome Livingstone as the new Undersecretary. Warner served in the same position in 1969. The nomination can be viewed here.
The Senate confirmed Acting Secretary Livingstone as the Undersecretary of the Navy on July 26, 2001 and she served in this position until January 24, 2003 when then Secretary of the Navy Gordon England left the Department of Defense to become the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security.
Livingstone is a trailblazer. She served as Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Logistics and Environment during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. She served as Undersecretary of the Navy in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. She served as Acting Secretary of the Navy. Livingstone serves as a role model to all young women showing them that they too can one day become senior leaders in the Department of Defense
Acting Secretary Livingstone shared her oral history with the US Army Corps of Engineers in 2007. A copy of this document can be found at here.
K. Denise Rucker Krepp
Director, Director’s Action Group
Naval History and Heritage Command
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