September 12, 2023

At Armed Services Committee Hearing, Senator Warren Highlights National Security Risks, Implications of Senator Tuberville’s Hold on Air Force Readiness, Recruitment, and Reputation

Warren: “The actions of the Senator from Alabama have become a national security nightmare. Instead of trying to embarrass the United States in front of its allies and embolden our enemies, the Senator from Alabama should lift his holds and let our top military leaders get to work.”

Video of Exchange (YouTube)

Washington, D.C. — Today, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) questioned Chief of Staff of the Air Force nominee General David W. Allvin on the impact and national security risks of Senator Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) hold on military promotions. Senator Tuberville’s hold has lasted nearly nine months and threatens to deprive over 650 senior military leaders of promotion by the end of the year. Currently there are 103  Air Force nominees on hold – the most of any service. 

Senator Warren called on Senator Tuberville to lift his hold on nominees for military promotions after detailing how the hold  hurts America’s ability to recruit, train, and retain servicemembers. Senator Warren also highlighted the threat the holds pose to U.S. global leadership, especially within NATO and ensuring European allies meet their military obligations. 

Statement: Hearing to Consider the Nomination of General David W. Allvin for Reappointment to the Grade of General and to be Chief of Staff of the Air Force
U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services
Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Senator Elizabeth Warren: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 

General Alvin, congratulations on your nominations. Gina, it's good to have you with us today. 

So, as chair of the Subcommittee on Personnel, I want to thank you for your leadership on behalf of airmen and their families, and particularly your support for military family housing and making sure that families have access to childcare. I appreciate your focus on these issues and how important they are on both recruiting and retention, and how much leadership you have shown in this area.

For nearly nine months now, the senator from Alabama has personally blocked the Senate from approving promotions of more than 300 military leaders. These are all leaders that Senator Tuberville voted for here in committee, but the senator from Alabama is angry about a Pentagon healthcare policy. So, he's decided none of the leaders can take up their jobs – the jobs that are needed to maintain our national security. The Air Force has the most senior officers who've been trapped by Senator Tuberville. 

General Alvin, does this block on promotions for top military leaders help or hurt our ability to recruit and retain service members, particularly in fields like cybersecurity where we're fighting hard to try to get the best talent.

General David W. Allvin: Senator, I will tell you that while we don't have the specific hard data, my experience – and my personal judgment – says that this does hurt recruiting and retention. We hear anecdotal evidence. 

First, we have great airmen who are going to go out and do the mission. And those who are serving in the positions, whether they're acting or they've deferred their retirement, they're going to continue to serve with honor. And so with that, I could not be more proud. 

What I do think about and again, without more than anecdotal evidence, is the signal that this may send. And with that signal, understanding that if there's a perceived disruption or distraction by our force, we want to maintain and retain the strongest and the best in our Air Force. And if those best have other options, and their families have other options, and they see this as a potential distraction, then we run a greater risk than if these weren't in place of losing those. So, that's the sort-of retention concerns that I have. And as people look, if they see disruption and distraction, we want to make sure we're also an employer of choice. And, so I think, anecdotally, I believe it affects us in both of those areas. 

Senator Elizabeth Warren: Okay, so you're saying we focus on the 300-plus people who are directly being blocked, but you're saying the impact is felt far beyond that in retention and even recruitment, Potentially?

General David W. Allvin: Senator, I believe it could potentially just because they see it as a distraction to the normal way of doing business.

Senator Elizabeth Warren: I hear you. Okay, so the senator from Alabama has said that blocking all top level promotions does not have any impact on our national security. That was not the view of the NATO leaders in Brussels when Senator Blumenthal and I met with them just a couple of weeks ago. They shared serious concerns about the impact of the blockade on our NATO operations. 

General Alvin, if U.S. leadership in NATO were to wane. Would that be a national security concern, in your view?

General David W. Allvin: Senator, it would. If US leadership in NATO were to wane, I believe it would. And I think we need to look no further back than the Ukraine war and how we're able to act as a responsible ally and sort-of shore up and improve what I believe is the alliance's response to that. And I believe if our influence in NATO waned, I believe that would be a national security issue. 

Senator Elizabeth Warren: Okay. And when I met with NATO leaders, I heard concerns that leaving so many senior positions unfilled is leading our allies to question our commitment to NATO. 

I'll be blunt. The actions of the senator from Alabama have become a national security nightmare. Instead of trying to embarrass the United States in front of its allies and trying to embolden our enemies, the senator from Alabama should lift his holds and let our top military leaders do their jobs. 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.