Lloyd Austin says Tommy Tuberville’s hold on military promotions is a ‘national security issue’

Senate Republicans protest the Pentagon’s policy on abortion. Blocking hundreds of military appointments by Tommy Tuberville harms both national security and military readiness, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday.

“This is a national security issue. It’s a preparedness issue. We shouldn’t kid ourselves, and I think any member of the Senate Armed Services Committee knows that,” Austin said. CNN.

Military promotions are usually approved by Congress, but Tuberville, of Alabama, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has blocked hundreds of appointments, citing his objection to a Pentagon policy that gives service members pay and travel expenses. and those seeking abortion. Tuberville said his holdings would not undermine the readiness of the armed forces.

“We have a policy that allows our troops to have access to uncovered reproductive health care, and I think that’s an important policy,” Austin told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“One in 5 of my troops … is a woman and our women provide tremendous value to this force and I think we should do everything we can to take care of them,” she added.

The defense secretary said he spoke with Tuberville in March and would “continue to engage” with Alabama Republicans to clear the impasse, though he said service members would be reimbursed for abortion-related travel expenses.

“That’s our policy,” Austin said.

As a result of Tuberville’s hold, the Marine Corps is without a confirmed chief for the first time in more than 150 years, a Pentagon spokesman said. 650 Military leadership The posts may become vacant by the end of the year if they continue.

Austin’s comments echoed those of Air Force Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown, President Joe Biden’s pick to serve as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told the Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the holdover, with less experienced personnel, could affect readiness. Deputies would have to assume leadership positions temporarily, and could discourage junior officers from staying in the military while creating financial and logistical burdens for troops’ families.

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A spokeswoman for Tuberville told NBC News in May, when Brown’s appointment was announced, that the ban would apply to Brown as well. The current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark Milley, expires in October.

Tommy Tuberville during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on June 8, 2023.Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call via AP File

Tuberville’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a joint press conference with Finland’s president on Thursday, Biden said, “If I think there’s any chance he’ll change his ridiculous position, he’s willing to talk to Tuberville. He’s putting American security at risk by what he’s doing.”

“I expect the Republican Party to stand up — to stand up and do something about it,” Biden continued.

“The idea that we don’t have a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that all these promotions are on hold right now, and we don’t know what’s going to happen, the idea that they’re injecting basic foreign policy decisions into really a domestic community debate on social issues,” Biden said. “I always remember that happening. No. It is completely irresponsible in my view.”

“I’m sure the mainstream Republican Party will no longer support what he’s doing, but they need to stand up and be counted,” Biden said. “That’s how it ends.”

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