Three branches of the U.S. military are now without a Senate-confirmed leader, thanks to Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s freeze on approvals on military promotions.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday officially retired Monday, and there’s no official replacement for his position. Earlier this month, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville also retired without a Senate-confirmed replacement. In July, the retirement of Marine Corps Commandant David Berger left the Marines without a commanding officer for the first time in more than 150 years.
Tuberville, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has single-handedly blocked more than 300 military promotions over his opposition to the Pentagon’s policy of reimbursing service members, veterans, and dependents for travel expenses related to abortion and reproductive health care.
Defense Department officials say the freeze on approving replacements is affecting military readiness. At Gilday’s retirement ceremony on Monday, Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin called the vacancies “unprecedented,” “unnecessary,” and “unsafe.”
“Because of this blanket hold, starting today, for the first time in the history of the Department of Defense, three of our military services are operating without Senate-confirmed leaders. This is unprecedented,” Austin said. “It is unnecessary, and it is unsafe. This sweeping hold is undermining America’s military readiness. It’s hindering our ability to retain our very best officers, and it is upending the lives of far too many military families.”
“Our troops deserve better, our military families deserve better, our allies and partners deserve better, and our national security deserves better,” he added.
Last month, Austin attempted to negotiate a ceasefire with Tuberville, and accused the senator of stonewalling and creating “a national security issue.”
Later that month, retired two-star Marine Corps Major General Arnold Punaro called Tuberville a “coward” during an interview with Politico.
“I have a huge problem with what Sen. Tuberville is doing. He’s a coward, in my book. He won’t even bring an amendment to the floor and get it voted on to change the [abortion] policy,” Punaro said.
Tuberville has refused to budge. In late July, the senator declared that if the hold was such a problem, the committee could conduct individual debates and votes over each nominee — a process that would take months to complete.
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