WASHINGTON, July 13 (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday that Senator Tommy Tuberville’s blocks of Pentagon appointments is a national security concern and he intends to talk to the Republican lawmaker about it.
Tuberville, a social conservative from Alabama, began blocking confirmations to senior Pentagon posts in March to protest a Defense Department policy enacted last year that provides paid leave and reimburses costs for service members who travel to get an abortion.
The U.S. military is dealing with challenges including providing support to Ukraine and working to keep balance in the Indo-Pacific, Austin said in an interview with CNN.
“We need leaders to be able to do that. This is a national security issue. It’s a readiness issue. And we shouldn’t kid ourselves,” Austin said.
The Pentagon chief said he last spoke to Tuberville in March but will engage with him again.
Asked what his message will be, Austin replied, “He needs to lift the holds.”
President Joe Biden last month criticized Tuberville for holding up some 200 Pentagon nominees over the Defense Department abortion policy.
“It’s just bizarre. I don’t remember it happening before, and I’ve been around,” Biden said.
On Tuesday, Biden’s nominee to become the top U.S. general warned that Tuberville’s blockade of military promotions could have a far-reaching impact across the Armed Forces, affecting troops and their families.
“We will lose talent,” General Charles “CQ” Brown, the outgoing Air Force chief of staff, told his Senate confirmation hearing to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.