Armed Services Secretaries Call On Tuberville To Lift ‘Unfair’ And ‘Dangerous’ Holds In WaPo Opinion

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The top civilian leaders of each armed service called on Republican Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville to lift his one-man hold on promotions for generals and admirals in an opinion article published Tuesday in The Washington Post.

Tuberville began refusing to give his consent for bloc promotions in March to protest against the Pentagon’s then-new policy funding out-of-state travel for servicemembers seeking abortions, saying the policy violates a law against taxpayer-funded abortions. As the holds stack up and as the senator recently started singling out espousal of leftist ideology in the military by some of the top nominees, the secretaries of the Navy, Air Force and Army implored Tuberville to relent or risk “eroding” the foundation of the U.S. military.

“Senators have many legislative and oversight tools to show their opposition to a specific policy … but placing a blanket hold on all general and flag officer nominees, who as apolitical officials have traditionally been exempt from the hold process, is unfair to these military leaders and their families,” Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Army Secretary Christine Wormuth wrote. “And it is putting our national security at risk.” (RELATED: ‘Using Them As Fodder’: GOP Presidential Candidate Slams Tuberville’s Blockade Military Promotions)

Nearly 300 top officers have not been able to promote, including the Marine Corps commandant, the chief of naval operations and the Army chief of staff.

Those roles are being filled by acting leaders who lack the authorities of confirmed leaders and are still fulfilling duties of their previous roles, placing “a real and unfair burden on these officers,” the secretaries said.

“Any claim that holding up the promotions of top officers does not directly damage the military is wrong — plain and simple,” they argued.

Officers down the chain of command experience spillover effects from the holds, according to the secretaries. More seriously, the holds could discourage colonels and captains from seeking to advance.

“They are watching this spectacle and might conclude that their service at the highest ranks of our military is no longer valued by members of Congress or, by extension, the American public,” the secretaries said.

“It’s not news that Joe Biden’s hand-picked civilian appointees are all parroting the party line,” Steven Stafford, a spokesperson for Tuberville, told the DCNF

The secretaries maintained that the abortion policy is “critical and necessary to meet our obligations to the force,” although the Pentagon told reporters on Aug. 29 it does not plan to track the number of servicemembers who take advantage of the travel funds or for what purpose.

In addition, the Department of Justice (DOJ) determined in October that the policy did not violate the law.

The secretaries implied that Tuberville has spurned bipartisan paths of reconciliation, instead indicating he plans to escalate the holds and launching “baseless political attacks” on the nominees. Tuberville has promoted reporting that exposes the nominees’ histories of buying in on or promoting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and intersectionality or making hiring decisions with diversity as a priority.

“It is time to lift this dangerous hold and confirm our senior military leaders,” they said.

“If these civilian Biden appointees want the service chiefs confirmed, then they can call Chuck Schumer,” Stafford added, and vote on each nominee one by one.

This article has been updated with comment from Sen. Tuberville’s office.

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