Sen. Tommy Tuberville has repeatedly insisted that his block on all military promotions isn’t affecting military readiness. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin says differently.
CNN reports that, in an Aug. 2 memo on how the military can keep leadership roles filled despite the blockade, Austin wrote that the “unprecedented, across-the-board hold is having a cascading effect, increasingly hindering the normal operations of this Department and undermining both our military readiness and our national security.” Both the Army and the Marines currently lack confirmed leaders, as does the Missile Defense Agency.
Austin’s memo laid out steps for keeping roles filled to the extent possible, although, “I understand that these steps will not end or offset the risk to our readiness or our global leadership position. Nor will they resolve the uncertainty and stress inflicted upon our general and flag officers and their families, or alleviate the worries rippling further down our ranks.”
All of this is over Tuberville’s opposition to a Pentagon policy reimbursing service members and their families for travel expenses if they need to leave the state where they’re stationed to get abortion care. White House national security spokesman John Kirby recently explained why that policy matters for military readiness.
“You go where you’re told, that’s the way orders work,” he said. “What happens if you get assigned to a state like Alabama, which has a pretty restrictive abortion law in place? And you’re concerned about your reproductive care? What do you do? Do you say no and you get out? Well, some people may decide to do that, and what does that mean? That means we lose talent, important talent.”
“It can have an extremely, extremely significant impact on our recruiting and our retention,” he added. “It’s just the right darn thing to do for people who raise their hand and agree to serve in the military.”
So, in protest of one policy that’s important for military readiness, Tuberville is blockading all promotions. Retired Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro recently explained the practical impact to Politico. “A good example of what’s happening in the Marine Corps is you have Eric Smith, who’s the assistant commandant—that’s still his billet because he didn’t get confirmed,” Punaro said. “He’s doing the equivalent of two full-time four-star jobs right now. It’d be like asking the Auburn quarterback to play offensive tackle and quarterback at the same time. … I don’t think people really understand how detrimental this really is on a day-to-day basis.”
Retired Gen. Jim Rogers, who was previously a senior commander at Redstone Arsenal in Tuberville’s home state of Alabama, told CNN, “Someone has given [Tuberville] bad advice. It affects everyone. It affects the nation, it affects every community like this. I am very concerned our senator is getting led down a path that he does not understand the full impact for the military, and I just recommend that he reconsider that.” Redstone is also waiting for the confirmation of a leader.
Tuberville is not reconsidering. In late July, he told CNN, “I’m taking all the fire from the other side, but I’m fine with it. I mean, I knew that was gonna happen. I knew it was gonna be tough, but I’m doing it for the right reasons.”
”The other side,” huh? Someone let all those retired generals and the defense secretary know that’s how Tuberville sees them.
It’s a joyous week in Wisconsin, where Janet Protasiewicz’s swearing-in means that the state Supreme Court now has its first liberal majority in 15 years. We’re talking about that monumental transition on this week’s episode of “The Downballot,” including a brand-new suit that voting rights advocates filed on Protasiewicz’s first full day on the job that asks the court to strike down the GOP’s legislative maps as illegal partisan gerrymanders.