The commanding general of U.S. Army operations in the Pacific said a Republican senator’s blanket freeze on promotions and major reassignments for generals and admirals in a dispute over abortion rights has not significantly military operations in his theater.
On Wednesday, Gen. Charles Flynn, commander of the Hawaii-based U.S. Army-Pacific, said he hadn’t noticed any “practical challenges” that have arisen since the Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville placed a parliamentary “hold” on military confirmations to protest the Pentagon’s policy of covering travel expenses for military personnel who go to another state for an abortion.
At least 300 military nominations are being held up in the Senate, including the next Army chief of staff, the chief of naval operations, and the commandant of the Marine Corps. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is slated to retire at the end of the month with no guarantee President Biden’s pick to replace him will be confirmed.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has called Sen. Tuberville’s legislative move “unprecedented, unnecessary and unsafe,” while the GOP senator’s defenders say the Democratic Senate could still move ahead with individual nominations but has declined to do so.
“This sweeping hold is undermining America’s military readiness. It is hindering our ability to retain our very best officers. And it’s upending the lives of far too many American military families,” Mr. Austin said last month at a ceremony for Adm. Mike Gilday, the outgoing chief of naval operations.
Gen. Flynn acknowledged that Mr. Tuberville’s hold is an inconvenience for senior military officers — especially those assigned to positions in distant countries like Japan and South Korea.
“It gets a little difficult in terms of being able to identify when you’re going to change and who you’re going to change with and the timing of that,” Gen. Flynn said in a call with Pentagon reporters.
On Tuesday, a Pentagon spokesman denied Mr. Tuberville’s charge that the Defense Department is effectively subsidizing abortions with taxpayer money. Mr. Austin instituted the new travel guidelines after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in June 2022 to overturn Roe vs. Wade and return the authority over abortion to the states. A number of military posts are located in states that have banned or severely restricted the procedure.
“What we’re doing is, we’re providing equitable reproductive health care for all of our service members,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said. “What we don’t want is a force of ‘haves and have-nots’ where some people are going to have access and some people are not by virtue of where the military assigns them.”
Mr. Tuberville denied again this week that his hold on promotions for generals and admirals has negatively affected military readiness. From the floor of the Senate, he compared it to some 8,000 military personnel who were forced out of the service over their opposition to the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
“These were healthy service members who were ready and willing to defend the United States of America,” he said. “They were pushed out for ideological reasons. This was a real threat to readiness and it inflicted real hardship on military families.”
Mr. Tuberville has been blasted by a number of Democrats on Capitol Hill and even a few of his fellow Republicans over his tactics in trying to reverse the Defense Department’s policy.
“They do nothing but strengthen my resolve,” he said.
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