The U.S. Marine Corps is officially leaderless, due to Republicans holding up military promotions in objection to the Defense Department’s abortion policy, a move that experts warn hurts national security.
General David Berger stepped down Monday from his position as commandant of the Marine Corps. The current assistant commandant, Eric Smith, will serve as acting commandant until a new one is officially appointed—but there is no confirmed replacement for Berger at this time. The White House has nominated Smith to officially take over, but Senator Tommy Tuberville has blocked hundreds of military promotions since March.
Speaking at Berger’s farewell ceremony, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin noted it has been more than 100 years since the Marines have operated without a confirmed commandant. “Smooth and timely transitions of confirmed leadership are central to the defense of the United States, and to the full strength of the most powerful fighting force in history,” he said.
Berger urged the Senate to get a move on, saying, “We need the Senate to do their job so that we can have a sitting commandant” who is “appointed and confirmed.”
Tuberville has blocked nearly 200 military promotions since March over his objection to the Defense Department’s abortion policy. Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the Pentagon unveiled a new policy that allows service members to take up to three weeks of administrative leave for reproductive health care treatments, including abortion and fertility procedures. The policy also reimburses them for travel expenses.
Tuberville insists the policy is illegal, and that his blocking military promotions in protest has “no effect on readiness” of the military. Austin has debunked both of these claims.
Not only is the policy perfectly legal, but Tuberville is actually putting the nation at risk. Austin warned in a letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren in May that Tuberville’s delay “harms America’s national security” and poses a “clear risk” to the military’s readiness.