WASHINGTON – The Army has become the second US military service to go without a senior leader due to Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s monthslong hold on quick Pentagon confirmations in protest of women’s reproductive healthcare policies.
Retiring Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville held a “relinquishment of command” ceremony Friday – a rare and unusual situation before Tuberville (R-Ala.) began his blockade on Defense Department appointments in March.
Typically, the military holds “change of command” ceremonies, which honor both the outgoing and incoming commanders – but with no one confirmed to take over for McConville thanks to Tuberville’s hold, the Army must do without until further notice.
“Unfortunately, today, for the first time in the history of the Department of Defense, two of our services will be operating without Senate-confirmed leadership,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during the ceremony.
“So let me be clear. In our dangerous world, the security of the United States demands orderly and prompt transitions of our confirmed military leaders.”
McConville’s departure comes about a month after now-former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David H. Berger ended his term as the service’s top officer without a confirmed successor to whom the position could be handed over.
Tuberville started his hold nearly five months ago to strong-arm the Defense Department into changing its policy paying for female troops and military family members to travel out of state to receive reproductive services, such as in-vitro fertilization and abortion.
The policy, which was enacted independently by the Pentagon but could be changed through legislation, was issued in response to the Supreme Court’s decision last summer to overturn Roe v. Wade, striking down the federal right to an abortion.
Since Tuberville’s hold began, the total number of unconfirmed senior military officers had grown to 301 as of Friday.
“Great teams need great leaders. That’s central to maintaining the full might of the most lethal fighting force on Earth,” Austin said.
“It’s vital for our global leadership – and for the trust and confidence of our outstanding network of allies and partners.”
Without McConville, Army Gen. Randy George – who was nominated to become the service’s next chief of staff – will serve in an acting capacity.
But without Senate confirmation, he will not be allowed to perform key duties, such as making changes to major Army policies and strategies.
“The failure to confirm our superbly qualified senior uniformed leaders undermines our military readiness,” Austin said.
“It undermines our retention of some of our very best officers. And it is upending the lives of far too many of their spouses, children, and loved ones.
“And this disruption is the last thing that America’s military families deserve.”
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