Tuberville's Block on Promotions Draws Ire of Military Top Brass

The secretaries of the Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Army issued a stern rebuke of Sen. Tommy Tuberville's prolonged blockage of senior military officers.
Tuberville's Block on Promotions Draws Ire of Military Top Brass
Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) in Washington on Nov. 9, 2020. (Stefani Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Caden Pearson

The secretaries of the Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Army issued a stern rebuke of Sen. Tommy Tuberville's (R-Ala.) prolonged blockage of senior military officers, calling it detrimental to national security and the well-being of military families.

In their joint op-ed Tuesday, the top military officials highlighted the critical role of senior military officers in maintaining America's military advantage.

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, and Army Secretary Christine Wormuth expressed grave concern with Mr. Tuberville's unprecedented six-month hold on the confirmation of senior military officers.

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

They asserted that the "foundation of America's enduring military advantage" is its military leaders and service members, but that this is being "actively eroded" by Mr. Tuberville's blockage of promotions.

In further comments to CNN, Mr. Del Toro and Ms. Wormuth said Mr. Tuberville is "aiding and abetting a communist and other autocratic regimens around the world," contending that his blockage is "affecting how they view the United States and our military capabilities and support for the military."

"This needs to stop," they said.

The Alabama senator has said that his action is in opposition to the Defense Department's policies that provide paid leave and travel reimbursement for abortions for service members and their families. Mr. Tuberville has maintained this stance since the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.

The military leaders argued that while senators have various legislative tools at their disposal to voice opposition to specific policies, Mr. Tuberville's "blanket hold" on all general and flag officer nominees, who traditionally have been exempt from such holds, is "unfair to these military leaders and their families."

Moreover, they say it is "putting our national security at risk" by preventing the Pentagon from placing nearly 300 leaders in “critical posts” worldwide.

"Three of our five military branches—the Army, Navy and Marine Corps—have no Senate-confirmed service chief in place," they wrote. "Instead, these jobs—and dozens of others across the force—are being performed by acting officials without the full range of legal authorities necessary to make the decisions that will sustain the United States’ military edge."

The secretaries argue that this strain places an undue burden on military leaders and their families, forcing many to endure costly separations and “genuine financial stress.”

“These military leaders are being forced to endure costly separations from their families—a painful experience they have come to know from nearly 20 years of deployments to places such as Iraq and Afghanistan,” the secretaries wrote. “All because of the actions of a single senator.”

The civilian leaders pointed out that the impact extends beyond senior officers, affecting the morale and career prospects of junior officers as well. Prolonged uncertainty and political battles over military nominations could dissuade future generations of military leaders from continuing their service, they said.

The consequences of Mr. Tuberville's actions, they warned, could result in the loss of valuable talent that the Defense Department has cultivated over decades, which they assert is vital to maintaining America's military superiority.

They contend that service members from all different ranks could also come to view that their service “is no longer valued by members of Congress or, by extension, the American public.”

The military leaders also criticized Mr. Tuberville for suggesting further escalation of this confrontation through "baseless political attacks" against military officials, instead of seeking a bipartisan resolution.

“Throughout our careers in national security, we have deeply valued the bipartisan support shown for our service members and their families,” the secretaries wrote. “But rather than seeking a resolution to this impasse in that spirit, Tuberville has suggested he is going to further escalate this confrontation by launching baseless political attacks against these men and women.”

Concluding their editorial, the civilian leaders called on the Senate to prioritize national security and end Mr. Tuberville's hold on senior military officer confirmations, emphasizing that the vast majority of Americans across the political spectrum recognize the dangers of politicizing the military leadership.

Mr. Tuberville has said that he's "talked to generals and admirals every day," and asserts that there's "no problem with [the United States' military] readiness."

"I've not changed my mind. I'm doing this for the right reasons," Mr. Tuberville told "Greg Kelly Reports" on Tuesday.

"I'm tired of Pinocchio [President] Joe [Biden] legislating from the White House. They're not gonna do that on my watch," he added. "The people of Alabama have somebody up there that's going to vote for them. And if we're going to have some kind of different abortion policy in the military, it's gonna take a vote on the Senate floor. And if we don't do that, I'm gonna have these holds for a long, long time."

Taking to X, formerly known as Twitter, Mr. Tuberville said Tuesday evening that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer "could bring these promotions to a vote today—but he refuses."

While not commenting directly, Mr. Tuberville retweeted a post on X by Erick Erikson, a radio host, who wrote: "Tuberville told me he's willing to allow individual votes on individual appointments but not the blanket vote on hundreds of appointments. So this guy could have the appointment, but the Democrats don't want to put him up for a stand alone vote."

This report was updated with additional comments by Mr. Tuberville.