Trump nominates ex-HarbourVest MD as navy secretary

US president Donald Trump has called Philip Bilden the 'right choice' to help the Navy expand and modernise its ships.

Philip Bilden, a former managing director of HarbourVest Partners in Hong Kong, has been nominated by US president Donald Trump to be the next Navy secretary.

“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 published on Wednesday. “Our number of ships is at the lowest point that it has been in decades. Philip Bilden is the right choice to help us expand and modernise our fleet, including surface ships, submarines and aircraft, and ensure America’s naval supremacy for decades to come.”

Bilden was also characterised in the White House statement as a “successful business leader, former Military Intelligence officer and a Naval War College cybersecurity leader who will bring strategic leadership, investment discipline and Asia-Pacific regional and cyber expertise to the Navy.”

“I am deeply humbled and honoured to serve as Secretary of the Navy,” Bilden said in the statement. “Maintaining the strength, readiness, and capabilities of our maritime force is critical to our national security.”

Bilden moved to Hong Kong in 1996 to set up the Asian operations of fund of funds manager HarbourVest Partners, which has over the past two decades committed $4 billion to primary, secondary and direct co-investments in the region. In 2012, he became less involved in the management of the firm and transitioned to a senior advisor role engaging with general partners and investors in the region.

He went on to serve on the advisory boards of funds managed by Bain Capital Asia, KKR Asia, Pacific Equity Partners and TPG Asia. He also served as the inaugural chairman of the Asia Advisory Council for the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association.

Prior to joining HarbourVest, Bilden served for 10 years in the US Army Reserve as a Military Intelligence officer from 1986 to 1996. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and served through the rank of captain at Strategic Military Intelligence Detachments supporting the Defense Intelligence Agency. He resigned his commission in 1996 when he relocated to Hong Kong.

Bilden also serves on the board of directors of the United States Naval Academy Foundation and the Board of Trustees of the Naval War College Foundation, where he serves as the inaugural chairman of the Center for Cyber Conflict Studies.

Bilden’s nomination will require US Senate confirmation.