The Army’s top official is “worried” an Alabama senator’s long-running blockade on general officer promotions could induce talented field grade officers to leave the service, she said.
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth’s warning, delivered Tuesday at the POLITICO Defense Summit, surfaced a little-discussed potential consequence of Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s nine-month blanket hold on senior officer promotions.
Typically, military promotions quickly clear the Senate via fast-tracked voice votes, but the chamber’s rules allow a single senator to block that process. And Tuberville, R-Ala., has done so in protest of the Defense Department’s abortion access policy — which the more than 350 impacted officers do not control.
“In the long term, I really have deep concerns about what my majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels are thinking about this,” Wormuth said.
Officers in these ranks, also known as field grade officers, typically endure grueling staff assignments and battalion or brigade command tours. They also attain retirement eligibility during this period — and the Army secretary said she fears that the brightest among them may head for the exits now.
“They already see the increasing partisanship in our nation, [and] how that plays out in hearings up on Capitol Hill,” she remarked. “And now when 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 [for partisan reasons], I think some of our officers are going to say, ‘I don’t know if this is what I want … I’m going to go work somewhere else and not have to worry about that.’”
Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are developing a workaround to Tuberville’s nine-month blockade. The plan advanced Tuesday from the chamber’s rules committee and could allow the stalled promotions to come to a single floor vote.
Wormuth described the effort as “promising,” and added, “I think we very much need to see the Senate resolve this.”
Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.