SECDEF Austin Is The One Playing Politics With Our Military


There appears to be a lot of sturm und drang being stirred up by the left regarding Senator Tommy Tuberville’s((R) Alabama) “hold” on as many as 265 flag officer promotions. The left is doing it’s typical “sky is falling” routine. We all know the military isn’t really one of the left’s favorite institutions, especially given its propensity to do everything they can to downgrade it from its once preeminent position. Therefore, I find it fascinating they now evince such manifest concern over its staffing.

From the Department of Defense website:

Tuberville has placed a hold on Senate confirmation for hundreds of general and flag officers throughout the DOD over disagreements with the Pentagon on its uncovered reproductive health policy.

As many as 265 general and flag officer nominations have been delayed in the Senate as a result of the hold.

Among those general officers pending the Senate’s confirmation, is Marine Corps Gen. Eric M. Smith, who earlier this week took over as acting Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Read: DOD Officials Highlight Risks to Force Posed by Senate Nomination Hold

Further down

[Defense Secretary] Austin underscored the negative impacts further delays in confirming the next commandant would have on Marine Corps and on national security during the Berger’s relinquishment of command ceremony on Monday.

“Smooth and timely transitions of confirmed leadership are central to the defense of the United States and to the full strength of the most powerful fighting force in history,” Austin said.

“We have a sacred duty to do right by those who volunteer to wear the cloth of our nation,” he said.

Let’s deal with the low-hanging fruit first. Marine Corps Gen. Eric M. Smith, who earlier this last week took over as acting Commandant of the Marine Corps, is already a 4 Star General. So confirmed or not and absent a felony conviction (or being caught referring to somebody with the wrong pronoun) he will remain so. His appointment is one of many such that are “position”promotions that don’t result in a concomitant rise in pay grade. As an “acting” Commandant, there is very little he cannot do that he would be able to do once confirmed. In short, for General Green, most other Flag Officers and SES’s, this is truly a non-issue operationally, or personally.

When discussing military policy, I usually try to frame things in metrics that affect our military ability to kill people and break things (or credibly threaten to do so in support of lawful National Command Authority Objectives. Let’s examine some of those. 

Before doing so however, we need to review an important concept in our military; 

 The Deputy Commander, Executive Officer or Deputy Director must always be ready to assume the role of his boss-and if he isn’t, he doesn’t belong in his current position. 

In the the case of an unconfirmed designee, who for some reason or other, cannot serve as “acting,” the current Deputy steps in. If the Deputy /XO isn’t capable, then he should have never held that job in the first place and should be cashiered. In such a case, it isn’t Senator Tuberville’s problem to solve. That rock resides squarely in Secretary Austin’s rucksack.

Back to metrics. Senator Tuberville’s action to exert discipline over the Armed forces on behalf of Congress, is specifically directed by the Constitution, which charges Congress with that task. 

Article I, Section 8, Clause 14:

[The Congress shall have Power . . . ] To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

Aside from choleric assertions bereft of facts, Secretary Austin, his apologists in the media and sadly, even a few of my West Point classmates, have failed to demonstrate just how Senator Tuberville’s exercise of a congressional responsibility enumerated in the Constitution, somehow diminishes our military’s: 



Sustainability (logistics, not tree hugging)

Combat Effectiveness

Cost Effectiveness

Recruiting & Retention

…or any other metric by which we assess our military ability to kill people and break things (or credibly threaten to do so) in support of lawful National Command Authority Objectives.

Back to the article:

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said in an interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto following today’s call between Austin and Tuberville, Singh said the impact to military readiness caused by the holds comes at a critical time.

As the U.S. faces the growing pacing challenge posed by China and responds to Russia’s ongoing assault on Ukraine, “we need our best team on the field,” she said.

“These are our nominees who have incredibly important jobs all around the world, who are working with our partners and allies,” Singh said. “And it sends a message to our adversaries.

Singh said Pentagon officials are hopeful that their ongoing engagement with Tuberville continues and encourages the Senator to lift his hold.

I can however, tell you what has been diminished by this brouhaha,  and Ms. Singh actually referred to it in her comments above…“And it sends a message to our adversaries. She’s right. It does send a message to our adversaries. That message directly affects what is arguably is the most important metric of military effectiveness–Deterrence.

Let’s explore Singh’s comments under the deterrence umbrella. Here are two great leaders and their thoughts on the subject.

To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting. 

~ Sun Tzu

We know only too well that war comes not when the forces of freedom are strong, but when they are weak. It is then that tyrants are tempted.

~ Ronald Reagan

So how does Singh address this? See below, emphasis added.

She added that DOD policy surrounding uncovered reproductive care has not changed, and that the Pentagon is not “making concessions or changing our policy“ in light discussions over the Senate holds.

Our policy is very clear, we’re trying to ensure equity across the service to all of our service members who live in states that they have the same rights as service members that live in other states,” she said in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd.  

From a deterrence point of view, how would this statement be viewed by our enemies? Put yourself in the position of the Commander of the People’s Liberation Army (China). What are you thinking about your American counterpart right now? The titular head (right below the President) of the most powerful armed forces in the world, is engaged in a political fight with the authority that confirms his senior personnel decisions.   

Is this a dispute over issues germane to war fighting and troop survivability, like the ones that caused the firing of a Russian General? Is Austin really going to the mat for his troops and their ability to survive in combat? 

Read: A Russian general says he was fired for pointing out challenges his troops are facing

Of course not. Secretary Austin is focusing his energy on ensuring female service members retain the ability to murder their unborn children, paid for out of federal tax dollars…and violating federal law to do so. The Chinese military and political leadership? They are focused on plans to invade Taiwan. Given the current focus of our military leadership on issues totally unrelated to winning our nation’s wars, I can see why our enemies certainly aren’t worried about our political and military leadership.

Original article posted at AFNN.US. Reposted here with the permission of AFNN.US.

COL(R). Mike Ford
COL(R). Mike Ford

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COL(R). Mike Ford is a retired Infantry Officer. He has served in Europe, Central America and in Southwest Asia, Commanding at the Detachment, Company, Battalion and Brigade Levels. He served as a Deputy Sheriff in South Florida for 10 Years. In a brief foray into the private sector, he was a Product Line Manager, specializing in special operations applications. Ford has been a contributor for American Thinker, Canada Free Press, the Gateway Pundit and Red State. He is currently the Managing Editor of American Free News Network, a 501(c)(3). You can find more of his work and that of other great writers there. - -