Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin lambasted Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville for delaying hundreds of officer promotions, a gamble Tuberville has taken to force the Pentagon into reversing a policy of funding travel for servicemembers seeking out-of-state abortions.
Tuberville vowed in March to block Senate confirmation of at least 160 top military officers the Department of Defense (DOD) has put up for promotion, leaving those positions empty until Austin complies with his demand. Two months later, the Alabama senator has only doubled down on the hold, drawing criticism from Austin for what he characterized as an unprecedented act that jeopardizes national security and could destabilize the entire military in a letter obtained Tuesday by U.S. Naval Institute News.
“Never before has one Senator prevented the Department of Defense from managing its officer corps in this manner, and letting this hold continue would set a perilous precedent for our military, our security, and our country,” Austin wrote in response to a request from Democratic Massachusetts ‘Sen. Elizabeth Warren. “The ripple effects of this unprecedented and unnecessary hold are increasingly troubling.” (RELATED: GOP Senators Demand Answers On Navy’s Drag Queen Recruiting ‘Ambassador’)
Tuberville’s “indefinite hold harms America’s national security and hinders the Pentagon’s normal operations” by stripping Pentagon leadership of valuable experience and expertise of the military’s seasoned leaders, Austin said.
Steven Stafford, a spokesperson for Tuberville, denied the hold would disrupt the military, USNI News reported.
“Every leadership position in our military is being done right now. The facts haven’t changed, so Coach’s position hasn’t changed,” he told the outlet.
In the coming four months, 64 top level positions in the U.S. military will open up for nominations, including the chief of staff of the Army, the commandant of the Marine Corps and the chief of naval operations, Austin said. In addition, within the next nine months, up to 90 three and four-star positions are up for rotation, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a position now held by Gen. Mark Milley.
“[G]eneral and flag officers also provide direct leadership and mentorship to thousands of enlisted Service members and junior and field grade officers across the Department. Their importance cannot be overstated,” Austin said
Delaying promotions also causes “profound confusion and disturbance” to mid-level officers and their families, as it delays planned changes of station and impedes career moves from both the officers up for promotion and those who would fill their shoes, Austin said.
My dispute with the Pentagon is not just about abortion.
It is more about the ILLEGAL use of taxpayer funds to facilitate elective abortion.@SenTuberville explains his opposition to the Department of Defense’s new abortion funding policy: https://t.co/Bs0mSpymgF
— SBA Pro-Life America (@sbaprolife) May 5, 2023
Austin declared in February that the department would provide leave and funding for military personnel to travel out of state for abortions if they are based in a state that bans or heavily restricts the procedure.
“This is not about abortion. We’ve had abortions for years in the military,” Tuberville told local news station WBHM on Thursday. “We have a law in this country called the Hyde Amendment that says taxpayer money will not be used for abortions, because some people believe in it, some people don’t.”
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