There Are Too Many Generals and Admirals, a Senator Stalling Military Promotions Argues

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III speaks with Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III speaks with Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville prior to appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee during the Department of Defense budget posture in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2022. (DoD Photo by Chad J. McNeeley)

As a standoff continues over the Pentagon's abortion policies and the promotions of nearly 200 senior officers, the senator at the center of the controversy is emphasizing a new argument for delaying the promotions: The military has too many generals and admirals.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., made the argument on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon after he objected to an attempt by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to quickly confirm the nominees he has been slow-rolling.

"Experts have known for more than a decade that the military is top heavy. We do not suffer from a lack of generals," Tuberville said. "When my dad served in World War II, we had one general for every 6,000 troops. Think about that: one for every 6,000. Now, we have one general for every 1,400 enlisted service members."

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Since late February, Tuberville has maintained a hold on all nominees for promotion to one-star general and admiral and above over his opposition to the Pentagon's decision to cover travel and leave for service members seeking abortions and other reproductive health care.

While a single senator cannot prevent confirmations, a hold significantly delays confirmations because the Senate needs to find floor time to hold lengthy roll call votes rather than quickly approving them in batches in voice votes, as is typical for military nominations.

As of now, Tuberville's hold affects 184 military nominees, though that number is expected to grow as President Joe Biden names more nominees and the Senate Armed Services Committee processes them for floor action, including the recently announced nominee to be the next Army chief of staff.

As Tuberville persists in his hold, Democrats have stepped up pressure on him to relent.

In the latest move in Democrats' pressure campaign, Warren took to the Senate floor Tuesday to make a series of unanimous consent requests to confirm the blocked nominees.

"These holds deprive military families of pay increases they have earned because a nominee's new pay may not take effect until the promotion goes through," Warren said. "Without formally being assigned a change of duty, families can't make decisions about moving or enrolling kids at a new school … for the fall."

Tuberville, as well as Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, objected to each request.

In objecting, Tuberville cited several think tank reports dating back as early as 2011 about the growth of the proportion of generals and admirals in the military.

"Today, we have more admirals than we have ships," Tuberville said. "Yet the Democrat side of the aisle is in panic that we don't have enough admirals. It just doesn't make sense."

Warren countered that she was "stunned" by Tuberville's argument.

"I had not been aware that it was a controversial view that our military needs officers in charge of the 5th Fleet or the 7th Fleet," Warren said, alluding to two of the nominees caught in Tuberville's hold. "If the senator from Alabama thinks there should be fewer high-level leaders in the armed forces, he can advance legislation to reform our leadership structures. But blocking leaders from taking the jobs to which they've been assigned is reckless."

-- Rebecca Kheel can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.

Related: Senator's Delay of Officer Promotions over DoD Abortion Policy Is Hurting Military Families, Austin Says

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