Trump’s pick for Navy secretary has RI ties

President Donald Trump speaks after being sworn in as the 45th president of the United States during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Another Rhode Islander has landed an important job in President Donald Trump’s new administration.

Trump has chosen Philip Bilden, a businessman and former military intelligence officer, to be nominated as the next secretary of the Navy, the White House announced Wednesday.

Bilden and his wife, Patricia, own a large home in Newport and are prominent contributors to charitable causes there, though they also lived in Asia for a number of years. Bilden currently serves on the board of trustees of the Naval War College Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the school, which is located on the naval base in Newport.

“As secretary of the Navy, Philip Bilden will apply his terrific judgement and top-notch management skills to the task of rebuilding our unparalleled Navy,” Trump said in a statement.

Having a Navy secretary with ties to Rhode Island could be good news for Aquidneck Island, where the defense industry tied to the Newport base is a vital part of the local economy.

“Supporting the Naval War College has been an honor for our family and a priority in our philanthropic budget,” Bilden wrote in a recent foundation document.

Other notable Rhode Island natives on Trump’s team are Sean Spicer, the president’s press secretary, and Michael Flynn, his national security adviser.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Bilden won’t be the first Rhode Islander to serve as Navy secretary. The late John Chafee held the job under President Nixon from 1969 to 1972, and Little Compton resident J. William Middendorf held it during the tail end of Nixon’s term and throughout President Ford’s tenure.

Ted Nesi ( covers politics and the economy for He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram