Lloyd Austin says Tommy Tuberville’s retentions in military promotions are a ‘national security issue’


Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday that Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s blocking of hundreds of military nominations over his objections to Pentagon abortion policy is hurting both national security and military readiness.

“This is a matter of national security. It is a preparation problem. And let’s not kid ourselves, I think any member of the Senate Armed Services Committee knows that,» Austin said. CNN.

Military promotions are routinely approved by Congress, but Tuberville of Alabama, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has blocked hundreds of such appointments, citing his objection to a Pentagon policy that provides paid time off. and covers travel expenses for service members. and dependents seeking abortions. Tuberville has maintained that his domain will not erode the preparedness of the armed forces.

«We have a policy that allows our troops access to non-covered reproductive health care and I think it’s an important policy,» Austin told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

«One in five of my troops … is a woman and our women provide tremendous value to this force, and I think we need to do everything we can to take care of them,» he added.

The defense secretary noted that he spoke with Tuberville in March and said he will «continue to engage» with the Alabama Republican to try to clear the impasse, though he added that service members will still be reimbursed for abortion-related travel expenses. .

“That is our policy,” Austin said.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., listens to US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy testify during the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing titled "Why are so many young Americans in a mental health crisis?  Exploring Causes and Solutions," in the Dirksen Building on Thursday, June 8, 2023.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, has suspended military nominations.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

As a result of the Tuberville arrests, the Marine Corps does not have a confirmed chief for the first time in more than 150 years, and a Pentagon spokesman said that as many as 650 military leaders positions may be vacant by the end of the year if holds continue.

Austin’s comments echoed those of Air Force General Charles «CQ» Brown, chosen by President Joe Biden to serve as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who on Tuesday told the Armed Services Committee that the Retentions could affect readiness, with less experienced deputies having to assume leadership positions temporarily, and could deter junior officers from remaining in the military while creating financial and logistical burdens for troop families.

A Tuberville spokesperson told NBC News in May, when Brown’s nomination was announced, that the hold would also apply to Brown. The term of the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Mark Milley, ends in October.

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