May 12, 2023

ICYMI: Defense Secretary Highlights Risks of Republican Senator’s Reckless Nominations Holds

Senator Warren Continues Push to Confirm Senior Military Promotions

Washington, D.C. – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has led congressional efforts to reverse Republicans’ reckless and dangerous holds on high level military nominations. On May 5, 2023, she received a response from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urging swift action to confirm all U.S. general and flag officers and highlighting how Senator Tommy Tubervillle’s (R-Ala.) indefinite holds preventing the Senate from advancing 196 senior Department of Defense military nominees poses a clear risk to military readiness and harms national security.

In his letter responding to Senator Warren’s April 2023 request asking about the national and military readiness impacts of Senator Tuberville’s holds, Secretary Austin details how this reckless hold impacts mission vacancies, power projection abroad, knowledge and expertise, servicemembers and families, and sets a perilous precedent. On May 10th, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell opposed Senator Tuberville as he doubled down on previous comments to hold up the nominations of nearly 200 high level military nominees. 

The full text of the response can be found by clicking here. Read more:

CNN: Austin lambasts ‘irresponsible’ and ‘unprecedented’ Republican hold on military nominations

  • “Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wrote a letter strongly criticizing an ongoing hold on senior military promotions and nominations in the Senate led by Republican lawmakers, saying it would create a ‘perilous precedent’ for the military and impose ‘unconscionable’ burdens on military families.”
  • “The letter, sent on May 5 in response to a query from Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, addressed the effort spearheaded by Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville, calling it ‘irresponsible’ and ‘unprecedented.’ Austin also said it undermines the US military’s credibility abroad, and will impose ‘new and unnecessary risk on US warfighters across multiple theaters of operations.’”
  • “The US military still does not perform abortions except for in covered cases, which applies only to [cases of  rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is at risk].”

Associated Press: McConnell opposes Alabama Republican’s blockade of military nominees over Pentagon abortion policy

  • “Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that he won’t support a fellow GOP senator’s blockade of military nominees, backing Democrats and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin who have said that the holdup is harming national security.”
  • “In a letter sent last week to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, Austin wrote that he has ‘deep concern’ about the delays in confirmations. He said the Pentagon estimates that approximately 650 officers covered by the hold – those at the one-star to four-star levels – will require Senate confirmation between now and the end of the year.

The Hill: Defense secretary rips Tuberville-led hold on promotions

  • “What’s more, the nomination hold would also hurt military families as it delays the system of promoting and moving them to new assignments. This, in turn, can prevent military spouses from accepting new jobs, keep children from moving to new schools and ‘impose needless additional stress’ on the families, Austin argues.” 
  • “Tuberville late last month blocked an attempt from Warren to advance the nominees by refusing to join a unanimous confirmation vote, arguing federal funding cannot be used to perform abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life is in danger. The U.S. military, however, does not perform such procedures except in the three covered situations.”

Washington Post: Readiness at risk because of stalled promotions, defense secretary says

  • “The defense secretary explained that officials serving in key positions — including the chief of staff of the Army and the director of the National Security Agency — are due to rotate out of their jobs within the next four months and that, without the promotions, the military can’t replace them. The tenure of service chiefs in the military is limited by law, which means incumbents must leave their positions at their appointed times.”
  • “Their positions, he said, oversee more than 1.2 million active and reserve service members and, ‘without these leaders in place, the U.S. military will incur an unnecessary and unprecedented degree of risk at a moment when our adversaries may seek to test our resolve.’”

Bloomberg: Austin Warns US Military at Risk by Senate Block Over Abortions

  • “Tuberville’s hold also threatens to block the expected appointment of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That would mean the top civilian and uniformed Pentagon leadership posts would be held by African Americans, coming 75 years after President Harry Truman ordered to desegregate the military.”
  • “‘The longer that this hold persists, the greater the risk the US military runs in every theater, every domain, and every service,’ Austin wrote in the letter, released Wednesday by Warren’s office.”

Punchbowl News: Why you should be more worried about the debt limit

  • “Senate Democratic leaders could file cloture and go through laborious procedural hurdles on each promotion in order to get the officers confirmed, but that would take several weeks of floor time. Democrats have also warned that if they give in to Tuberville’s demands, it would set a dangerous precedent whereby any senator could resort to a similar tactic.”
  • “In a statement, Warren told us that Tuberville is ‘knowingly endangering military readiness and putting our troops at risk.’ Warren tried to break Tuberville’s blockade last month but the Alabama Republican held firm — and even got some backup from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).”

Stars and Stripes: Austin warns Republican senator’s hold on military nominations will cause ‘profound confusion and disturbance’ for troops and their families

  • “The impact will be felt not just by the military’s most senior officers but also by rising one- and two-star general and flag officers, he wrote. Extended holds could delay promotion timelines for groups behind the current cadre of officers by one to two years, according to Austin.”
  • “Tuberville’s hold also introduces a new layer of stress for families planning permanent change-of-station moves. Austin said those moves will need to be delayed or canceled if the senator refuses to lift his objection, and military children will not be able to move to new schools in time for the next school year.”

Reuters: US defense secretary cites security concerns as senator holds promotions over abortion

  • “Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville has been blocking more than 150 military nominations from moving forward for months because he believes the Pentagon is improperly using funding to cover travel costs for abortions of service members.”
  • “‘This indefinite hold harms America's national security and hinders the Pentagon's normal operations,’ Austin wrote.” Future Officer Promotions Could Also Be Delayed by Senate Standoff, Austin Warns

  • “In the latest missive, Austin argued that, because general and flag officer numbers are ‘tightly controlled’ by law and because one group of officers can be promoted only with the retirement of another group, future promotions could be delayed by a year to two years because of the current standoff.”
  • “Austin has previously warned that Tuberville's hold hurts military families by preventing them from preparing for moves and leaves key military positions in doubt at a time of global instability, arguments he echoed and elaborated on in the letter.”
  • “His latest warning came in response to a letter Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sent him last month asking for a ‘full accounting’ of the effects of Tuberville's holds. Senate Democrats have been gradually ratcheting up pressure on Tuberville as the standoff nears its fourth month.”

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Austin: Senator’s Hold on General Promotions ‘Harms America’s National Security’

  • “Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III issued a lengthy warning over the ongoing hold on senior military promotions led by a Republican senator, warning that the effort is ‘unprecedented in its scale and scope’ and poses a ‘clear risk’ to the U.S. military’s ability to function properly.”
  • “Austin warned the list of affected officers will significantly swell in the next nine months, with 80 three- and four-star rotations projected across the DOD, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force.”

Washington Examiner: McConnell breaks with Tuberville over hold on military promotions

  • “I don't support putting a hold on military nominations. I don’t support that. As to why, you need to ask Senator Tuberville,” McConnell said in response to a question from a reporter at a press conference on Wednesday.
  • Austin’s letter comes in response to a query from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who leads the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Personnel, asking the defense secretary to outline how Tuberville’s blockade is impacting national security.

The Record: The Marines’ next cyber chief is stuck in a pileup of nominations in the Senate

  • “Tuberville has refused to relent, despite a pressure campaign, including a letter by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin released on Tuesday that warned continued opposition to general and flag officer promotions is a ‘perilous precedent’ for the military.”
  • “‘Ultimately, the breakdown of the normal flow of leadership across the Department’s carefully cultivated promotion and transition system will breed uncertainty and confusion across the US military,’ Austin wrote in response to a request from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).”

As Chair of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, Senator Warren has been a leader in fighting to reverse Republicans’ reckless and dangerous nominations holds:

  • On May 2, 2023, at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Warren questioned the Secretary of the Air Force about the risks to national security and military readiness posed by the nominations holds. The Secretary warned about “negative impacts” on military families and military retention. 
  • On April 25, 2023, Senator Warren delivered remarks and asked for 35 unanimous consent requests on the Senate floor, calling for the confirmation of 184 top-level military nominations blocked by Senator Tuberville and Republicans. 
  • On April 7, 2023, Senator Warren sent a letter asking Secretary Austin to detail the national security and military readiness impacts of Senator Tuberville’s blanket nominations hold.