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New Pentagon memo reshuffles workforce to offset Tuberville blockade

August 4, 2023

Ellen Mitchell

The Hill

Photo: Chad McNeeley, DOD

By Ellen Mitchell, The Hill / August 4, 2023

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has issued a new memo to all military personnel outlining how to “mitigate the harms” caused by Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) months-long hold on hundreds of military confirmations.  

“This unprecedented, across-the-board hold is having a cascading effect, increasingly hindering the normal operations of this Department and undermining both our military readiness and our national security,” Austin writes in the Aug. 2 guidance, obtained by The Hill. 

With that in mind, Austin directs the Pentagon’s workforce to consider several strategies, noting that leadership roles might need to be reorganized.    

“In extraordinary cases,” lower-level officers in a grade of 0-8 or below who are not in the normal line of succession “may be assigned to head organizations in an acting capacity,” Austin writes.  

In other cases, and without vacating their current position, some three- and four-star officers may perform the duties of another role in an acting or temporary capacity if they are in the normal line of succession for that job, regardless of whether they have been or will be nominated for it. 

The Pentagon chief acknowledges that such steps “will not end or offset the risk to our readiness or our global leadership position. Nor will they resolve the uncertainty and stress inflicted upon our general and flag officers and their families, or alleviate the worries rippling further down our ranks.” 

Austin’s memo was issued ahead of the retirement of Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, who vacated his role Friday without an official replacement.  

There are now two military services without a confirmed leader, including the Marine Corps, as the former official commandant, Gen. David Berger, retired last month. Berger’s departure left the military arm with no confirmed leader for the first time in more than 100 years

Several other roles may soon be left open as top military officials retire, including chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The current chairman, Army Gen. Mark Milley, will retire at the end of September.  

It’s unclear when Tuberville will end his block on Pentagon nominees, which he began in March to protest the Defense Department’s new abortion travel reimbursement policy. 

Austin has spoken to Tuberville directly about the hold at least twice, but Tuberville has shown no sign of letting up, even as the standstill has sparked bipartisan frustration.