Today is the last day on active duty for Commandant of the Marine Corps David Berger. There will be hosanas sung in a lot of quarters at the departure of the man who has gutted the ability of the US Marine Corps to perform as an expeditionary force through the ill-conceived Force Design 2030 reorganization and work will start to try to mitigate the damage. But that isn’t what is drawing attention, though it should. When the helicopter lifts Berger off the roof of Henderson Hall this evening, the US Marine Corps will be without a confirmed commandant.
Why doesn’t the Marine Corps have a Senate-confirmed commandant? The answer is two words and one US Senator: Alabama’s Tommy Tuberville. The issue is the Department of Defense subsidizing the expenses of military women to travel to a pro-Moloch state to get an abortion when they aren’t available at their station of duty.
A lone Senate Republican’s bid to reverse a Pentagon policy ensuring abortion access for service members is delaying the smooth transfer of power at the highest echelons of the armed forces, including in the ranks of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as a monthslong partisan dispute over social policy drags on.
Senator Tommy Tuberville, a conservative from Alabama, has been single-handedly blocking hundreds of promotions for high-ranking generals and admirals since February, refusing to relent unless the Defense Department scraps a policy — instituted after the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion last year — offering time off and travel reimbursement to service members who need to go out of state for abortions.
Now, Mr. Tuberville’s tactics are on the brink of disrupting the Pentagon’s ability to fill its top ranks. More than half of the current Joint Chiefs are expected to step down from their posts during the next few months without a Senate-approved successor in place, leaving the president’s chief military advisory body in an unprecedented state of flux at a time of escalating tensions with China and Russia.
I wrote about this controversy weeks ago in Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville Reminds the Defense Department That One Determined Man Is a Majority.
Untrammeled wokeness inevitably leads to hubris and open revolt. The Department of Defense is barred from allowing abortions in military medical facilities. Shortly after the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning the legal and moral travesty that was Roe vs. Wade was handed down in June 2022, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced that the military would pay for the travel of pregnant soldiers AND their family members to states that were abortion-friendly as well as providing three weeks of free time off. The policy became final in February.
Austin was correct in guessing that a Democrat-led Senate would prevent any action from being taken. What he was wrong about was the ability of one determined senator to upend the abortion applecart. In December, Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville told Austin that if he persisted in doing this end run around the law, he would prevent all promotions of general officers and their civilian equivalents.
U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) today announced his intent to place a hold on all future U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) civilian and general flag officer nominees should the department choose to move forward with a planned policy change to fund travel and paid time off for service members and their dependents seeking an abortion. The announcement from Senator Tuberville comes in response to his office being briefed by Department of Defense officials on the policy change earlier in the week. By covering travel expenses and paid time off, Senator Tuberville believes the DoD is blatantly flouting the law.
Tuberville’s “hold” on senior Defense appointments leaves limited options. The easiest one is for Austin to recognize that his action is illegal and rescind it. That doesn’t seem to be in the works. As all senior Defense nominees require the Senate to “advise and consent,” Tuberville’s lone objection can only be bypassed by Chuck Schumer, allowing debate and a vote on each nominee. This would require an investment of time that he just can’t afford.
Instead of blaming Tuberville, anger should be directed against the pompous, self-important Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin who is trying to score political points for the Democrats on the back of military readiness. When General Berger retires into well-earned obscurity this evening, you know what happens tomorrow? The sun will come up. Birds will sing. Children will play. The woke left will be outraged. In other words, life goes on. The Marine Corps will have an “acting commandant.”
It's last day for Gen. David Berger as Marine Corps Commandant.Gen. Eric Smith will serve as acting comdt. until confirmed.He's one of many military posts being blocked from Senate confirmation by UC by Sen. Tuberville (R-AL).1st time USMC has no confirmed commandant since 1859. pic.twitter.com/LW707Zymvi
— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) July 10, 2023
[Note: I have no idea why Caplan says, “1st time USMC has no confirmed commandant since 1859.” The list of Marine Corps Commandants shows that the Marines have frequently had breaks of days or months without a commandant. The last time it happened was when Major General George Elliot retired in November 1910 and wasn’t replaced until February 1911.]
An acquaintance made an impassioned appeal for Tuberville to back off.
The idea of DOD paying travel costs for servicemembers to travel for abortion or fertility treatment is same as covering it for any medical care that isn't available where we assign them to serve. The Tuberville argument is wrong and hurts the troops according to @general_ben. pic.twitter.com/qmrR2GXGQ3
— On Democracy with FPWellman (@OnDemocracyPod) July 9, 2023
I think Tuberville has correct stance on this. The only people inconvenienced by Tuberville’s hold is a handful of senior officers whose assignments need senatorial approval. While this may upset some career apple carts, the idea that failing to confirm them affects readiness is dishonest. If the miliary has reached the point where there is a finite number of generals capable of commanding, we might as well just fold our tent and slink away.
Letting Austin do what he wants is rewarding the Defense Department for behaving like the spoiled, bratty toddler it is. Austin needs to do what is right legally, which is to pull the plug on his end run of federal law, and morally, which is to get Defense out of the baby-killing business.