Preparatory education, Peekskill Military Academy. Graduated from the United States Naval Academy, 1895.
He served in the Philippine Islands during the Philippine insurrection. His first command was the destroyer United States Ship Cassin, which operated off Veracruz during the 1914 Mexican Campaign. As a rear admiral, he commanded a battleship division, and he was President of the Naval War College from 1930 to 1933.
As a vice admiral, he commanded Cruisers, Scouting Force.
As an admiral, he commanded Battle Force, United States. Fleet, from 1 April 1935 to 20 April 1936. He was Commandant, New York Navy Yard and 3rd Naval District from 20 April 1936 to 1 October 1937.
Laning retired from the Navy on 1 November 1937, then served as Governor of the Naval Home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, until his death on 2 February 1941. He was buried in the United States Naval Academy Cemetery.
The Naval War College published his memoirs in 1999.
Served on United States Ship Philadelphia, Oregon and Mohican, 1895-1898.
Married Mabel Clare Nixon, July 24, 1900.