Defense Secretary Austin responds to Senator Tuberville's tanking timely military promotions

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin responded Tuesday to the hold placed on military promotions by Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL). Tuberville is protesting abortion policies set by the Department of Defense. Tuberville is a one-senator blockade against 160 senior military promotions who is refusing to budge on the issue of the policy he calls illegal that reimburses travel for abortion and provides paid time off for military members or their family members who choose to have an abortion. Tuberville is making a point that taxpayer-funded abortion is illegal.


Austin testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and made the case for the Pentagon’s annual defense budget. He was asked about Tuberville’s hold on the promotions.

Without naming the Alabama senator or citing the abortion policy, Austin called the impact of delaying routine military promotions “absolutely critical” as dozens, potentially hundreds, of general and flag officer picks pile up. He cited several tense global situations, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China, and Iran.

“There are a number of things happening globally that indicate that we could be in a contest on any one given day,” Austin said. “Not approving the recommendations for promotions actually creates a ripple effect through the force that makes us far less ready than we need to be.”

“The effects are cumulative and it will affect families. It will affect kids going to schools because they won’t be able to change their duty station,” he added. “It’s a powerful effect and will impact on our readiness.”

Tuberville is a member of the Armed Services Committee. He is following through on a threat he made to object to quick confirmations of Pentagon civilian nominees and senior military officer promotions. The reason for the holds is an objection to American taxpayer-funded troop travel and paid expenses plus time off to obtain abortions. Usually, civilian nominees and military promotions cruise to Senate approval. Sometimes the Senate approves hundreds of such moves all at once. Austin said the volume of senior military promotions makes it tough on service members about to retire. Tuberville, however, said he won’t stop the obstruction of the nominee until the abortion policy is reversed or suspended.


The volume of senior military promotions makes it harder for Senate Democrats to get around Tuberville’s objections than it is for civilian nominees. And Tuberville has indicated he won’t stop his obstruction of nominees unless the abortion policy is reversed or suspended.

Tuberville said his method is unfortunate but “we make the laws here.”

“I hate to have to do this. It’s unfortunate. But we make the laws over here. The DoD doesn’t. This is not about abortion. It’s about taxpayer-funded abortions,” Tuberville said Monday evening amid pushback from Democrats and members of his own party, according to Punchbowl News.

Tuberville announced he would block all DOD nominees on Feb. 17, just one day after the Pentagon outlined its new abortion policy, and has so far prevented the Senate from approving what is typically a block of nominees in a single vote.

It sounds simple enough. What is unusual is for a senator who said he would block the nominees over the abortion policy to actually do it. It’s bold leadership. He is protecting taxpayer dollars and speaking up as a pro-life lawmaker.

Chuck Schumer said the impasse in the Senate risks “permanently politicizing the confirmation of military personnel.” Please. That ship sailed when Austin and his staff decided to make the military into a woke military. “If every single one of us objected to the promotion of military personnel whenever we feel passionately or strongly about an issue, our military would simply grind to a halt,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.” It’s only one senator, though, and the military is still functioning. Nothing is grinding to a halt.


Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) tried to force a vote on the nominees last week but Tuberville held fast to his objection. Tuberville also argued that his action is not unprecedented. Democrats have done the same as he is doing.

“I will continue to come down here and lay out the facts for as long as my colleague from Colorado wants to. We talked about this less than a month ago. The facts have not changed. My position has not changed. And so I reserve the right to object,” Tuberville told the body at the time.

Tuberville reacted to Bennet claiming his holding of Biden’s defense nominees was “unprecedented” by pointing to a January report from Defense News in which the latter threatened his own objections to Biden’s nominees over Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s “refusal” to meet with him concerning the administration’s decision to move the U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama. Tuberville also referenced a previous hold by Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., of over 1,000 military promotions.

Duckworth is a veteran. If putting a hold on military promotions was the end of the world, she wouldn’t have done it. Tuberville reminded senators of the three circumstances in which the military may provide abortions.

“Federal law only allows the military to provide abortions in three very narrow circumstances: rape, incest and threat to the life of the mother. Yet the Biden administration has turned the DOD into an abortion travel agency. They did it by using just a memo,” Tuberville said.


Some Republican senators do not agree with Tuberville’s tactic but they all agree that taxpayer-funded abortions are illegal. It will be interesting to see how long Tuberville holds out. Demanding that DOD does policy by the books, not by memo, is a good principle to stand up for.

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David Strom 12:00 PM | February 22, 2024