Lloyd Austin needs to resign as Secretary of Defense

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Since the announcement of the decision in Dobbs on Friday, elected officials and media personalities across the board have been weighing in with their own takes as you would expect. But one of the last people I would have expected to dive into the public debate was Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. And yet he somehow made the decision to wade into the Roe v Wade issue up to his hips. This turned out to be a very poor decision for several reasons, as we’ll see in a moment, but the question here goes far beyond one retired military officer’s personal views. The spectacle Austin created was simply damaging and Lloyd Austin needs to either resign or be fired, not that Joe Biden will make any such move. At Redstate, Mike Miller highlights Austin’s comments and points out how wrong he managed to get the entire affair.

‘It comes as no surprise that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has issued a statement all but condemning Friday’s overturn of Roe — by pledging that the United States military “be all that it can be” [sarcasm] and will do all it can in support of “seamless access to reproductive health care [on-demand abortion].”

What is a bit of a surprise — Austin’s apparent ignorance of federal law — is laughable.

In a statement posted on the Department of Defense website, Austin pledged the U.S. military’s (emphasis, mine) “readiness and resilience” to, in effect, “continue to provide access” to abortion.

Before getting to the question of precisely how far this spectacle went off the beam, allow me to make one thing clear. This has nothing to do with the Dobbs decision on Friday and how Lloyd Austin might personally feel about it. He’s entitled to his personal opinion like anyone else. The error here has to do with Austin’s decision to make an official statement as the Secretary of Defense and, as Miller points out, his almost comical lack of knowledge in terms of the policies he’s discussing.

With that said, here are the key portions of Austin’s statement. “Nothing is more important to me or to this Department than the health and well-being of our Service members, the civilian workforce and DOD families. I am committed to taking care of our people and ensuring the readiness and resilience of our Force. The Department is examining this [Roe] decision closely and evaluating our policies to ensure we continue to provide seamless access to reproductive health care as permitted by federal law.”

The idea that there is “nothing more important” to the United States Secretary of Defense than abortion access is insulting enough. But the Defense Secretary (and the entire department, for that matter) are supposed to be non-political by design. The military – including its civilian leadership below the presidential level – are supposed to serve presidents from both parties without fear or favor. Austin’s first priority must always be ensuring the readiness of the American military to take the field if required and defeat our enemies. Politics has no place in his office.

But let’s just pretend for a moment that this was okay. Austin said he would ensure that his department will “continue to provide seamless access to reproductive health care as permitted by federal law.” Really? That’s going to come as a major surprise to all of the women in our military who wanted to get an abortion in the past. Military health facilities do not perform abortions, even if the woman is offering to pay for it themselves. And the only time they will pay for an abortion performed by an outside provider is if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

That’s not a political policy. It’s because of the Hyde Amendment, which Lloyd Austin has apparently never heard of. All of the money consumed by the military comes from federal funds. Federal funds may not be used to pay for abortions in almost all cases. And as to Austin’s statement about “as permitted by federal law,” as of Friday there is no relevant federal law. Those decisions have been returned to the states, whether you agree with the resolution or not.

There were questions raised about Lloyd Austin’s suitability to run the Defense Department from the moment that Joe Biden nominated him. We should never forget his long, successful career in the military and the nation owes him its gratitude for that. But being a great soldier doesn’t necessarily translate into being a great governmental leader. His tenure at Defense hasn’t exactly been characterized by greatness. Let’s ignore for the moment the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. (He shouldn’t have to shoulder all the blame for that, but it happened on his watch.) We’ve had other issues with our military as well.

And now Austin has decided to drag the office of the Secretary of Defense into the political mud pit in the middle of one of the most divisive issues of the day. We already have enough civilians setting buildings on fire and launching battles in the streets over Dobbs. We don’t need our military being dragged into it. Lloyd Austin should resign. I’m positive that won’t happen, but it still needs to be said.