Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin strongly criticized Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s ongoing hold on military promotions, labeling it as an “unprecedented” action that poses a threat to national security.
Austin’s comments came during a ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he expressed concern over the impact of the hold on the Department of Defense.
Austin highlighted that due to the hold, three military services are operating without Senate-confirmed leaders for the first time in history. He emphasized that the situation is “unprecedented, unnecessary, and unsafe,” as it undermines military readiness, hampers officer retention, and disrupts the lives of military families.
The Defense Secretary stressed that a smooth transition of confirmed leadership is crucial for the country’s defense and the strength of its military force. He called on the Senate to confirm all qualified military nominees, including the nominee for the 33rd chief of naval operations.
Although Austin didn’t mention Tuberville by name, the comments were directed at the Alabama senator, a member of the Armed Services Committee. Tuberville has placed a hold on numerous military promotions to protest a Defense Department policy related to paid time off and travel reimbursement for service members seeking abortions. He wants a vote on a bill introduced by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., that would codify the policy into law and has indicated that he would lift the hold if it passes.
Tuberville and Austin have communicated on the matter, with Tuberville stating that they are trying to resolve the issue through dialogue. In response, Austin has called for the senator to lift the hold, asserting that the Defense Department’s abortion policy is legal.
This policy has been a contentious topic on Capitol Hill, influencing negotiations on the National Defense Authorization Act. Differences between the Democratic-led Senate and the House GOP regarding the policy must be reconciled before the bill can become law.