Aug 16, 2023 - News

San Diego military officials blocked by Senate dispute over abortion policy

Marines and sailors in uniform stand on a navy ship with different country's flags flying and on a platform below the ship at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego.

Naval Base Point Loma. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Nominations for eight senior military officers in San Diego are being blocked by an Alabama senator who's protesting the U.S. Defense Department's policy that gives troops and their families paid leave and travel funds for abortions.

Driving the news: About 300 high-level U.S. military positions across all five branches are on hold across the country and internationally, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. The posts require Senate-confirmation.

  • That number is expected to more than double by year's end unless the impasse is resolved.

Why it matters: Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala) is "waging an unprecedented campaign to try and change Pentagon abortion policy" with this strategy that's "leaving key positions unfilled and raising concerns at the Pentagon about military readiness," the AP reported.

  • The hold-up is delaying Adm. Lisa Franchetti from becoming the first woman to serve as chief of naval operations and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • It's the first time in decades that one of the branches has been led by an acting service chief, and the first time ever there's been three at the same time, per the DOD.

Catch up quick: Tuberville implemented the hold in February to protest the policy that followed the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last year.

  • The DOD policy addresses concerns from service members, who could have limited access to reproductive care based on where they're stationed.
  • Tuberville argues that federal money shouldn't be used to cover abortions or anything connected to it, per the Post.

What they're saying: Republicans and Democrats have previously used holds on both civilian officials and military officers.

  • However, those instances were resolved quickly, making this case "uniquely troubling and destructive," especially given the sweep and significance of the roles, Peter Feaver, a professor who studies civil-military relations at Duke University told the Post.

What to watch: The Senate could vote on each name individually, but that would take months. So, Tuberville will likely wait for an enticing offer to lift the hold.

  • The Pentagon also recently issued guidance on reorganizing leadership roles as they look to navigate the situation, CNN reports.

Of note: The San Diego region has an acting U.S. attorney due to the Senate block on all Department of Justice nominations over an objection to prosecutions of former President Trump.

Local officers affected:

  • D. Wilson Marks, Commander, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center at Naval Base San Diego;
  • Daniel Cheever, Commander of Naval Air Forces and Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet at Naval Station North Island;
  • Brendan McLane, Commander, Naval Surface Forces/Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado;
  • Michael Devore, Chief of staff, Naval Surface Forces/Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado;
  • Jeffrey Jurgemeyer, Chief of staff, Navy Reserve, Commander, Naval Surface Force Pacific at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado;
  • Michael Mattis, Deputy commander, Navy Reserve Region Readiness and Mobilization Command in San Diego;
  • Robert Weiler, Marine Corps, Assistant division commander, 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton;
  • Michael Cederholm, Marine Corps, Commanding general, I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton.

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