NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland -- Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall blasted Sen. Tommy Tuberville's six-month hold on military promotions, marking some of the strongest rhetoric to date from the service secretary on the Alabama Republican's blockade.
Kendall called out Tuberville, who opposes the Pentagon providing leave time for abortions, and blamed him for causing hardship for troops during his keynote address at an Air and Space Force Association conference at National Harbor, Maryland.
"My message today for the one senator causing all this disruption and uncertainty is that all these men and women, and their units and their families, are having their readiness and their lives negatively impacted by your unprecedented actions," Kendall said.
Tuberville's move has stopped the Pentagon from putting nearly 300 officers into new positions and duty stations, and has also delayed confirmation of service chiefs for the Army, Navy and Marine Corps.
"On behalf of all the men and women serving their country honorably today, who cannot speak for themselves, I am asking you to lift the blanket hold you have on over 300 general officers awaiting Senate approval of their well-earned promotions," Kendall said to applause.
Since late February, Tuberville has used a procedural tactic known as a hold to block confirmations of all general and flag officers over his opposition to the Pentagon's policy of covering leave and travel expenses for service members who need abortions in the wake of the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade.
In total, nearly 300 flag and general officers across the services are caught up in that delay. Nearly 100 Air Force officers' promotions are affected, as of last week, putting it above the Army, which has the next highest number at 91. The Air Force has 73 active-duty officers and 25 reserve officers caught in Tuberville's hold.
While a hold cannot prevent the Senate from confirming nominees, it requires the chamber to take individual roll call votes on each nominee rather than confirming them in batches with voice votes as it usually does for noncontroversial military promotions. Pentagon officials expect about 650 nominees to be entangled in the hold by the end of the year.
Kendall also took aim at Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. The congressman told Military.com in July that he was holding up military reprogramming requests because of a delayed decision on where to base U.S. Space Command. A week later, Rogers reversed the move, which caused financial confusion for airmen and Guardians as personnel money related to duty station moves and bonuses was held up.
"Do not hold all of our reprogramming requests because of disagreement of a basing decision," Kendall said. "We need the ability to reallocate that money to where it can meet our national security needs."
Tuberville's hold is causing a logjam for the Air Force. Last week, Lt. Gen. Jim Slife was nominated to be vice chief of staff. But with the hold, Slife cannot replace Gen. David Allvin -- who was nominated as the next chief of staff of the Air Force in July. Allvin cannot take over for Gen. Charles "C.Q." Brown, the current chief who was tapped as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs in May.
-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.