Nearly 100 Navy officers affected by senator’s hold
The service will become the third without a Senate-confirmed leader when CNO Adm. Mike Gilday steps down Aug. 14.
Nearly 100 U.S. Navy officers, and their families, are in a holding pattern as a result of one senator’s hold on senior military officer nominations.
Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville placed the hold on nominations beginning in February, in an attempt to make the Pentagon reverse policies that allow troops to take leave for an abortion or other reproductive care, and to get reimbursed for travel expenses.
“The U.S. Navy has 91 Flag officer positions due to rotate this year. Timely confirmation of flag officers is crucial for maintaining operational readiness, effective leadership, and stability within the Navy,” a Navy spokesperson told Defense One in an email Wednesday. “These delays disrupt the planning and execution of critical Navy missions, with potentially far-reaching consequences. In addition, Navy families, who provide extraordinary service and sacrifice for the country, should not be subjected to the additional burden this uncertainty creates.”
The hold is affecting nominees for several key Navy jobs, including the chief of naval operations and the top positions at U.S. 5th and 7th Fleets.
Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti, who was nominated July 21 to lead the Navy, will step in to perform the duties of the CNO when Adm. Mike Gilday steps down Aug. 14—making the Navy the third military service without a confirmed leader.
While Franchetti waits for her nomination hearing and a confirmation vote in the Senate, she will have to balance the work of the two top military jobs in the Navy.
A confirmation delay “creates uncertainty and can lead to leadership gaps, hindering the Navy's operational readiness,” the Navy spokesperson said. “Timely confirmation ensures smooth transitions and allows flag officers to lead effectively from the start, minimizing any negative impact on operational readiness.”
The hold has so far affected about 300 senior officers and civilians across the Defense Department, officials have said.
“I think we've been very clear about the potential impact of these holds on military readiness,” Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters Monday. “And so that continues to be the secretary's position, and we'll continue to do what we can to provide any information that the…senator's office requests, as it relates to why we would hope that these holds could be lifted.”
Holding nominations for service members is not how lawmakers should voice their displeasure with policies set by the administration, said Bradley Bowman, the senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative Washington think tank.
“It's a horrible precedent to punish service members & hurt readiness because one doesn't like an administration's policies,” Bowman said in a tweet Monday. “Introduce a bill. Make an argument. Build consensus. Cast a vote. But don't use military members for leverage in a political fight. That's NOT right.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a memo Aug. 2 about limiting the hold’s effects on the force. In it, Austin wrote, “This unprecedented, across-the-board hold is having a cascading effect, increasingly hindering the normal operations of this department and undermining both our military readiness and our national security.”
He provided five ways to reduce the harm from the hold, including keeping people in their current roles while they wait for a successor, allowing people to assume positions in an acting role if they are already a deputy, and allowing, “in extraordinary cases,” officers who are at the O-8 level—major generals or rear admirals—and below who are not in the line of succession to be placed as the acting head of an organization.