September 14, 2023

At Hearing, Naval Operations Nominee Warns of an “Erosion of Readiness” if Military Holds Continue

Warren: “The senator’s actions are damaging our military’s recruiting and we could be paying a price for that for decades to come.” In written response, the Navy estimated it could take naval promotion system “six or seven years [to recover] if the hold remains in place.”

Video of Exchange (YouTube) | Department of Defense Information Paper (PDF)

Washington, D.C. — At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, questioned Admiral Lisa M. Franchetti, nominee for reappointment to be Chief of Naval Operations, on the increasingly detrimental effects of Senate Republican holds on over 300 high level military officer nominees.

Admiral Franchetti spoke to concerns raised by Navy families, negative impacts on recruiting at the Naval Academy, and added it could take years for the Navy’s promotion system to recover from these delays in confirmation. 

Transcript: To Consider the Nomination of: Admiral Lisa M. Franchetti, USN for Reappointment to the Grade of Admiral and to be Chief of Naval Operations
U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services
Thursday, September 14, 2023

Senator Elizabeth Warren: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Admiral Franchetti, congratulations on your nomination. Jim, Isabel, good to have you here today.

For nine months, the Senator from Alabama has personally blocked the Senate from approving promotions for more than 300 military leaders. We are missing Navy commanders in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The Secretary of the Navy has said the impact of these holds is “playing Russian roulette with the very lives of our service members.” And now, with Admiral Gilday’s retirement, the Navy has no confirmed chief of naval operations.

But the price our nation will pay for the reckless behavior of Senator Tuberville will reach far into the future.  

Admiral Franchetti, the Navy, like most of the services, is always competing for the best leaders of tomorrow.  How important is a pipeline like the Naval Academy for recruiting those leaders of tomorrow?

Admiral Lisa Marie Franchetti: Senator Warren, it was a pleasure to meet you the other day. As we look right now, as our Navy is facing challenges all around the globe, threats from our adversaries, we want to have the right people with the right level of experience in those positions. And as we continue to not have the confirmed people that we have nominated with that experience, we are going to continue to see an erosion of readiness. As far as the Naval Academy goes, it is an amazing place. I had a chance to serve there as a battalion officer, and they bring together the best and brightest talents from all across America that are willing to serve our nation, and they really come out and do a great job. Whether they serve for their original commitment or they serve for 30 years, I’m proud of all of our midshipmen at the naval academy as well as the midshipmen across the other commissioning sources and OCS.

Senator Warren: I take it you are saying this is a part of the leadership pipeline for the Navy?

Admiral Franchetti: It is.

Senator Warren: One of the people held up by Senator Tuberville is Rear Admiral Davids, who would be the first female superintendent of the Naval Academy. Seeing someone like her at the helm will inspire other people who might not otherwise pursue a career in the Navy.

Senator Tuberville likes to talk about how we’re in a recruiting crisis. But for the first time in nearly 60 years, the Naval Academy started the school year without a confirmed Superintendent. And every young person at the Naval Academy, every young person who is thinking right now about applying to the Academy, and every young person anywhere in the Navy must confront head-on the fact that Senator Tuberville has turned both the Navy and the Naval Academy into one more political football.  

The senator’s actions are damaging our military’s recruiting and we could be paying a price for that for decades to come. 

So let me ask you about another impact from these holds. Let me ask about families. Admiral Franchetti, have you heard anything about the impact of these holds on Navy families?

Admiral Franchetti: Yes, I think our Navy families are dealing with a lot of uncertainty. We ask a lot of our families to move, uproot, find new schools, find new jobs for spouses. I have heard a lot of concerns from our families that they are having difficulty navigating that space right now.

Senator Warren: One last question, this one about the promotion system.  The 300-plus holds on the top ranks has an impact on everyone who is one level down, two levels down, who can’t move into a spot that hasn’t been vacated.  

Admiral Franchetti, the Senator from Alabama is treating these holds as a minor inconvenience, but the services are telling me that even after the holds are lifted, the promotion system will be tangled up for months or years to come. What’s your best estimate of how long it will take the Navy’s promotion system to recover?

Admiral Franchetti: So Senator, I think just at the three-star level, it would take about 3 to 4 months to move all of the people around, but it will take years to recover from the promotions – if confirmed – for the promotion delays we would see forward.

Senator Warren: So years to come. Our military experts project China wants to be able to take Taiwan by 2027, and we’ll still be trying to repair the damage inflicted by these holds. 

The Republicans’ failure to end this blockade makes it clear: they do not care about our leaders and they do not care about families who have served their country honorably for decades.  

It’s hard to imagine a bigger propaganda win for our enemies. We need this hold to stop and we need it to stop now. 

Thank you Mr. Chairman.