Since February, a blanket hold in the Senate on confirmations for senior military leaders has caused a challenge within the military as many key leader positions have been left without permanent leadership.
As of Nov. 6, the number of affected positions increased to some 452 nominations for leadership roles across the armed forces, involving 448 general and flag officers. All are awaiting confirmation by the Senate.
Without Senate confirmation, those important military positions might need to be filled by other officers in “acting” roles, who may lack both the needed rank and experience to perform in the role.
“Some of the positions that are stalled for confirmation include the Fifth Fleet Commander, the deputy Fifth Fleet Commander, the defense attaché to Israel and the list goes on,” said Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh during a briefing today at the Pentagon. “As we’ve said before, these holds have a direct effect on our military readiness, our national security and our military families.”
The blanket hold on nominations in the Senate has prevented lawmakers from using the traditional “unanimous consent” process for confirming large numbers of military nominees en bloc.
According to the Congressional Research Service, without using “unanimous consent,” the Senate is still able to confirm nominees. But it must confirm each nominee individually using time-consuming voice or roll-call votes.
In September, the Senate was able to use this method to confirm Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Randy A. George as Army chief of staff and Gen. Eric M. Smith as Marine Corps commandant.
On Nov. 2, the Senate again used individual voting to confirm Adm. Lisa Franchetti as Chief of Naval Operations, Gen. David Allvin as Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and Lt. Gen. Chris Mahoney as Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps.
While it is possible to continue to use voice votes to confirm military leaders, it might take several months to confirm the hundreds of nominees that have been sent forward by the president.
“As we face a variety of urgent challenges, the most powerful fighting force in history must be at full-strength,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III in a statement released following last week’s votes. “This unprecedented delay in confirming our military’s top leaders has hurt our military’s readiness and unnecessarily weighed down our military families, who already give up so much to support those who serve.”