A two-star general opted to retire instead of waiting out Republican Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s hold on his promotion, the Army’s chief said Tuesday.
The number of officers subject to Tuberville’s hold has grown to nearly 450 since the senator announced his tactic in March in a bid to force Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to rescind an abortion travel policy. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth worried more senior officers would follow the two-star, whom she did not name, in leaving the Army if Tuberville’s one-man blockade on military promotions isn’t resolved by the end of the 2023 calendar year in remarks at Politico’s defense summit.
“I don’t have certainty and I think what’s best for me and for my family is to just go ahead and pull my papers,” Wormuth said, characterizing the general who recently submitted his retirement papers while awaiting Senate confirmation.
“I would expect that if we don’t see the Senate resolve this hold by Christmas there will be more of those,” she said.
Tuberville’s holds will soon affect another yearly round of military promotions, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall noted Monday as Pentagon alarm over the stymieing of top military officers grows. “Devastating. It’s horrific. I’d think of a stronger term if I could,” Kendall said.
Officers, even junior ones not directly affected by Tuberville’s hold, awaiting change of station orders and promotions required for advancing in their careers may grow weary of operating in limbo while their superiors are unable to promote, service secretaries have said. Families looking to create roots and find schools may also refuse to endure that uncertainty much longer.
But the problem could extend further even if an agreement is reached, Wormuth warned. “In the long term, I have deep concerns about what my majors, colonels and lieutenant colonels are thinking about this,” Wormuth said. “They already see the increasing partisanship in our nation … and now where we have a situation where the toothpaste is out of the tube, and general officers and flag officers can have their nominations put on hold I think we’re going to have some of our general officers and flag officers say, “I don’t know if this is what I want to continue to aspire to.’”
Other higher-ranking officials, including the director of army staff, are filling the duties of two people while the positions above or below remain empty, Wormuth said.
Join me live today at 1:50 EST as I talk to @paulmcleary at @politico’s 2023 Defense Summit to discuss @USarmy support to our Allies and partners, modernization efforts, & recruiting. #POLITICODefense https://t.co/WcLsyI6xtn pic.twitter.com/dKv8LXEIKc
— Secretary of the Army Christine E. Wormuth (@SecArmy) November 14, 2023
Wormuth said she didn’t think the potential exodus would amount to a “tsunami.”
“But I think that there will be more officers putting in their retirement papers if this isn’t resolved by the end of the year,” she said.
Wormuth praised Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa, Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina for highlighting Tuberville’s refusal to budge on the holds. Earlier in November, they forced Tuberville to shoot down attempts to call votes on individual Pentagon nominees.
Tuberville’s office did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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