In a Washington Post op-ed published on Monday night, the civilian secretaries of the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force sharply criticized Sen. Tommy Tuberville, the Alabama Republican “who is blocking the confirmation of our most senior military officers,” as they put it.
Tuberville, an anti-choice conservative and staunch supporter of Donald Trump, has single-handedly placed a “blanket hold” on the appointments of all “general and flag officer nominees” in all branches of the U.S. military. He strongly opposes “Defense Department policies that ensure service members and their families have access to reproductive health” — and, more specifically, to abortion services — “no matter where they are stationed.” The gist of this policy is that service members in states where abortion is now illegal or sharply restricted may travel at government expense to jurisdictions where it is permitted, a policy Tuberville and other Republicans strongly oppose.
In the Post article, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Army Secretary Christine Wormuth write that the policy on reproductive access is fully legal and also “critical and necessary to meet our obligations to the force.” Tuberville’s hold, they assert, is “putting our national security at risk” by preventing the Pentagon “from placing almost 300 of our most experienced and battle-tested leaders into critical posts around the world“:
Three of our five military branches — the Army, Navy and Marine Corps — have no Senate-confirmed service chief in place. … Across the services, many generals and admirals are being forced to perform two roles simultaneously. … Each of us has seen the stress this hold is inflicting up and down the chain of command, whether in the halls of the Pentagon or at bases and outposts around the world.
Tuberville’s claim that “holding up the promotions of top officers does not directly damage the military,” the three secretaries conclude, “is wrong — plain and simple.”