The new chief of naval operations

When Admiral Watkins retires from the Navy on June 30, he will hand over his office keys to a fellow ex-submariner, Adm. Carlisle A. H. Trost. Admiral Trost, currently commander of the Atlantic Fleet, is a budget expert and former student of international affairs considered to be an intellectual by other Navy officers.

``He's well thought of throughout the service,'' says one.

After stints at Annapolis (Class of 1953) and the Navy Submarine School in New London, Conn., Trost rose through the ranks while serving on both attack and ballistic-missile subs. By 1968 he was skipper of the USS Sam Rayburn; by 1973 he was chief of Submarine Group Five, based in San Diego.

Interspersed with sea duty was a term as aide to then-Navy Secretary John W. Warner.

As director of Navy program planning from 1981 to '85, Trost was instrumental in planning the big Navy budget increases of the Reagan military buildup. That knowledge should serve him in good stead in his new job, because he will have to cajole Congress for every extra dollar.

``He's one of the few people who really understand the budget process,'' says a Navy contractor.

Trost had to win a bureaucratic battle before being named chief of naval operations. Navy Secretary John Lehman favored Vice-Adm. Frank Kelso, commander of the Sixth Fleet, which struck Libya earlier this year. While Admiral Kelso is widely admired in the service, he is still relatively inexperienced. Some 23 officers outrank him, and it would have been a slap at them all if he were advanced to top spot.

So President Reagan decided to go with Trost, who was the choice of both Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and the Navy's uniformed senior command. --30--{et

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