Abortion impasse that has stalled military promotions fires up defense secretary

The chief of U.S. naval operations officially stepped down Monday,
bringing the total of military branches without a Senate-confirmed
leader up to three as the standoff on Senate confirmation votes
stretches into a fifth month.

“This is unprecedented,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday. “It is unnecessary and it is unsafe.”

Speaking at the relinquishment ceremony for Admiral Michael Gilday
in Annapolis, Maryland, Austin called for an end to the political
jockeying that has held up more than 300 military promotions since
March.

A lone Alabama Republican, Senator Tommy Tuberville, has
been the driving force of the logjam, keeping the Senate Armed Services
Committee from considering military promotions in batches — what
Congress calls unanimous consent — and causing it to instead handle each
appointment on an individual basis.

Tuberville’s protest stems from his objection to a Defense Department policy
by which personnel and their dependents can seek reimbursement of any
travel expenses related to abortion services if they are stationed in
states that ban or restrict the procedure. 

Austin approved the policy last year in response to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, ending 50 years of federal abortion protections in the United States.

The
end of Gilday’s command of the Navy follows the retirement earlier this
month of the head of the Army, and the leader of the Marine Corps stepped down in July.
All three branches have acting leaders, but Austin noted that this is
the first time in U.S. history that the military has not had
Senate-confirmed leaders, and that military readiness at all ranks
suffers as a result. 

“Smooth and swift transitions of confirmed leadership are essential to the defense of the United States,” he said.

Tuberville
emphasized Friday that the positions are not vacant and that the people
serving in an acting capacity are sometimes the same people nominated
for the roles. The senator also blamed Senate Majority Leader Chuck
Schumer for not bringing the nominations up for a vote.

“The Biden Administration’s liberal and woke policies are the real threat to military readiness,” Tuberville posted on X, the site formerly known as Twitter. “I’m trying to keep politics out of the military.”

Holding fast to its policy on out-of-state abortion care, meanwhile, the Pentagon said it supports service members.

“The
mission of the United States military is to fight and win our wars,”
Pentagon press secretary Pat Ryder said earlier this month. “It’s also
our responsibility to ensure that our service members have access to
health care, no matter which state you’re stationed in.”