An ominous tenor of war has descended over the world. Hamas’ horrific attacks of Oct. 7, and Israel’s response in Gaza, could spur a wider conflict throughout the Middle East. Ukraine continues to resist Russia’s unprovoked attack and occupation. China’s aggressive behavior toward Taiwan could foreshadow an invasion.
Amid such bellicosity, America’s armed services need no distractions. Unfortunately, they have one in U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.
The former Auburn University football coach is protesting the Biden administration’s funding of travel reimbursements for service members seeking abortions. Rather than pursuing litigation or using his tactics to block the appointments of policy-setting civilians, Tuberville is denying senior military leaders promotions they have earned in jobs critical to national security.
The senator’s nearly nine-month-long tantrum has spurred bipartisan exasperation. Meanwhile, more than 400 of the country’s top military leaders have become pawns in his protest. The move has left top leaders of the armed services and their families in limbo — at best.
“Timely confirmation of flag officers is crucial for maintaining operational readiness, effective leadership, and stability within the Navy,” a Navy spokesman said. “These delays disrupt the planning and execution of critical Navy missions, with potentially far-reaching consequences.”
U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, agrees.
“To try to shut down the government every time you don’t get your way on a policy decision is devastating to the country,” the Washington Democrat said.
Tuberville’s protest comes while the military’s recruiting efforts are falling short within the Army, Navy and Air Force. It may also impact the perseverance of senior leaders who could opt instead for a job in the private sector rather than be subjected to the senator’s tactics.
One position, a chief of staff in Washington’s National Guard, is being held up by Tuberville, according to The Washington Post. There may be more to come.
Tuberville dismisses the criticism by saying the Senate can choose to vote on every last nominee to a higher military position, rather than in blocks.
“That is theoretically possible but enormously expensive of senators’ time,” points out Peter D. Feaver, a professor of political science and public policy at Duke University. The Senate’s calendar would be tied up for weeks.
Tuberville needs to end his political posturing before it does any more harm to the confidence and readiness of the country’s armed services, and the ability of men and women in uniform to protect the nation.