Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday criticized Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., for blocking more than 150 military officer nominations in protest of a Defense Department policy supporting abortion care.
During a Senate Armed Services hearing Tuesday about the annual budget, Austin was asked about Tuberville’s hold on nominations. Austin said the promotions, which are being delayed, are “absolutely critical.”
The blocked nominations come at a time of global tension with China and Iran, and Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
“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 policy, which went into effect March 18, supports service members and dependents traveling out of state for abortion care, including paid travel expenses and up to three weeks of administrative leave. Women make up about one-fifth of the military’s active-duty force, according to the Defense Department.
Tuberville has said he will hold up all civilian and general flag officer nominations until the policy is reversed. On Tuesday, he said his actions are about “not forcing the taxpayers of this country to fund abortion.”
Chuck Schumer: Holding up nominations is ‘reckless’
Tuberville holding up military nominees is “reckless” and couldn’t come at a “worse time,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday on the Senate floor.
“Right now, 160 military promotions – these are not political – are on hold because the senior senator from Alabama is holding them up because he can’t get his way on blocking 160,000 women within the military from receiving healthcare,” Schumer said.
Tuberville is holding up nominations for commanders of U.S. Naval Forces in the Pacific and Middle East, as well as the U.S. representative to a NATO committee, according to Schumer.
“Blocking military choices is unprecedented and it could weaken our national security,” Schumer said.
Contributing: Candy Woodall