89 ‘Critical’ Department of Air Force General Promotions Held Up in Senate

The Department of the Air Force makes up a significant portion of senior military promotions currently on hold in the Senate due to a blockade by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), according to data shared with Air & Space Forces Magazine.

Democratic lawmakers said there are 196 pending nominations as of May 10. The Department of Air Force makes up 89 of the pending general officer nominations, the department said. Tuberville is protesting the Pentagon’s new reproductive health policies—which provide paid leave and travel expenses for service members who must travel to receive an abortion—by stopping general and flag officer promotions, which are subject to Senate confirmation.

A DAF spokesperson said the hold has wide-ranging impacts.

“These are critical positions overseeing the management of the Nation’s nuclear triad operations and deterrence; joint coalition air campaigns; reinforcement plans for defense of critical areas of responsibility; research, development, and modernization efforts; cyberspace operations; and sensitive elements of our Nation’s intelligence enterprise,” the spokesperson said.

The hold also extends to some of the Air Force’s top jobs.

“As of May 10, the U.S. Air Force has nine three- and four-star total force nominations pending confirmation,” the spokesperson said. “Of the nine positions, five are Major Command commanders and four are headquarters directors. These positions are critical to the pursuit of global, regional, and functional objectives, providing offensive, defensive and support elements for the Indo-Pacific, European, Southwest Asia, and Homeland theaters.”

Roles awaiting confirmation include the commanders of Air Combat Command and Pacific Air Forces, as well as new heads of Air Force Futures and director of staff at Headquarters Air Force.

In a recent letter sent to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the chair of the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III warned that Tuberville’s hold “harms America’s national security and hinders the Pentagon’s normal operations.”

Senior leaders, including Austin and Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, have also noted the move puts many officers’ families, as well as those who are set to retire or move to different roles, in an uncertain position.

“The impacts extend beyond the nominees themselves to their families and the incumbents being replaced by those nominated,” the DAF spokesperson said.

The Senate normally confirms thousands of military nominations a year, almost all through unanimous consent. While it is not uncommon to have some political nominations held up, Austin said Tuberville’s move was “unprecedented in its scale and scope.” The DOD projects it will have 650 general officer and flag officer nominations by the end of the year—which cannot go ahead if Tuberville does not shift his position. Tuberville wants the upper chamber to have to vote on military nominations one at a time, but that would suck up the Senate’s limited floor time, and Senate Democrats note the officers are uncontroversial uniformed nominees who do not control the DOD’s civilian policies. Tuberville’s move is also drawing criticism from the top Republican in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

“I don’t support putting a hold on military nominations,” McConnell told reporters May 10. “I don’t support that. As to why, you need to ask Sen. Tuberville.”