‘Horrific’: Air Force Chief Rails Against Tuberville Promotion Holds In Strongest Criticism Yet

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The Air Force chief on Monday condemned Republican Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s hold on officer promotions during a fireside chat in some of the strongest language yet as the holdup nears a year.

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall called the one-man blockade on promotions for the highest-ranking military leaders, who are subject to Senate confirmation, “horrific” in comments at a Center for A New American Security event. The number of officers subject to Tuberville’s hold has grown to nearly 450 since the senator announced his tactic in March in a game of brinkmanship to force Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to rescind an abortion travel policy.

“Devastating. It’s horrific. I’d think of a stronger term if I could,” Kendall said. (RELATED: Here’s How Tommy Tuberville Could Sue The Pentagon Over Its Abortion Travel Policy)

Those were some of the strongest words yet from the most senior civilian defense officials to describe Tuberville’s stop on promotions. Tuberville blocked promotions in protest of the Department of Defense (DOD)’s February 2023 policy authorizing travel reimbursements for service members who travel out of state to get abortions. Defense leaders say the policy jeopardizes national security and have become increasingly vocal in their criticism of the senator.

Kendall said he was grateful for support among Republicans in the senate who think Tuberville’s ploy is misguided, despite frustration with the Pentagon’s abortion tourism rule. “A number of republicans have been very, very outspoken on that, which I am deeply appreciative of,” Kendall said.

Senate Democrats are pursuing a temporary rule change that would allow the promotions to move forward in a single package with a simple majority vote. Kendall said he supports the rule change, which is intended to affect just the present batch of promotions and wouldn’t apply to next year’s round.

“We’re coming up on a year. I looked at the list of people that are waiting for confirmation and some of them picked last February. Basically, we do a year planning cycle and we’re about to do the next year and we haven’t moved through people from last year. It’s incredibly debilitating,” Kendall said.

“We handpicked people for jobs for which they’re best suited for. Right now it’s just whoever happens to be there, often a deputy or somebody …. in many cases people who stayed on instead of retiring,” he added.

Opponents, including Republicans, previously argued Tuberville’s holds are crippling the military during global crises and hurting people who have no control over the civilian DOD’s policy schemes.” As a football coach he should understand that you don’t field the winning team unless you put your best players and your people in the best position for them to play in,” Kendall said.

Tuberville did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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