Sen. Hirono: “Since March, the Senator from Alabama has refused to allow movement on any of these promotions, depriving our military of critical leaders in key posts around the globe.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Chair of the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, delivered remarks on the Senate floor to request unanimous consent to confirm the promotion of U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Frederick W. Kacher to serve Commander of the 7th Fleet, and speak out against Senator Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) ongoing hold on nearly 200 military officer promotions.
“Our servicemembers can only do their jobs if they are in place to do so,” said Senator Hirono during her remarks. “And right now, the Senator from Alabama’s hold on 196 General and Flag Officer promotions is preventing these brave men and women from entering new roles, in which they are urgently needed.”
Since March, Senator Tuberville has delayed the promotions of servicemembers, including RADM Frederick, because of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) policy that allows servicemembers to access reproductive health care, regardless of the state where they are stationed. In her remarks, Senator Hirono also highlighted how the hold on these crucial promotions could impact Hawaii, specifically regarding shipyard infrastructure modernization and the defense supply chain, which will be essential to the safe defueling and closure of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.
“For any member of this body to willfully degrade the readiness of these units is, in my view, unthinkably irresponsible,” said Senator Hirono. “To be clear, these are not controversial nominees. These are decorated, patriotic men and women who have devoted their adult lives to serving our nation, and who wish only to continue doing so.”
She concluded, “They should be able to do their jobs without political interference, without someone putting their ideological agenda ahead of the need for us to make these decisions. For the sake of our servicemembers and our country, we need to end this dangerous blockade.”
Senator Hirono’s full remarks are below and video is available for download here.
M. President, earlier today, every member of this body received a briefing on the ongoing threat Iran presents to our national security and that of our allies around the world. It was a stark reminder of the serious challenges and threats the United States and our allies face around the world. It also underscored the importance of ensuring our military is ready and able to respond to any threats that may arise.
Right now, though, M. President, one Senator is willfully undermining our readiness—I happen to chair the Readiness Subcommittee on the Armed Services Committee. Our servicemembers can only do their jobs if they are in place to do so. And right now, the Senator from Alabama’s hold on 196 General and Flag Officer promotions is preventing these brave men and women from entering new roles, in which they are urgently needed.
Since March, the Senator from Alabama has refused to allow movement on any of these promotions, depriving our military of critical leaders in key posts around the globe. Among the nearly 200 promotions currently on hold is the next Commander of Navy Sea Systems Command, who is responsible for overseeing the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program, a critical infrastructure investment in our public shipyards in Hawaii and across the country.
The blanket hold also includes the Director of Defense Logistics Agency or DLA. DLA oversees the defense supply chain for all services, and will be essential to the safe defueling and closure of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Oahu, a leak from which impacted over 90,000 people living on Oahu. The Senator from Alabama is also holding nominees to command Fifth and Seventh Fleets, which are responsible for deterring threats from Iran and China, respectively.
For any member of this body to willfully degrade the readiness of these units is, in my view, unthinkably irresponsible. To be clear, these are not controversial nominees. These are decorated, patriotic men and women who have devoted their adult lives to serving our nation, and who wish only to continue doing so. My colleague from Alabama is placing a blanket hold on close to 200 promotions in the DOD because he disagrees with DOD’s commonsense, humane policy to allow travel for servicemembers seeking reproductive services.
Thousands of servicemembers are posted in states that do not allow them to receive reproductive services, necessitating this travel. This is a policy my colleague objects to, resulting in his hold on these promotions. The travel policy does not include paying for abortion. How many times must this point have to be made? Why do my colleagues on the other side of the aisle continue to read into the policy that which is not there? Nowhere does the policy allow the DOD to pay for abortion. There's no language in this policy that talks about facilitating the provision of abortion. Show me this language. You can't, because it's not there.
This is a travel policy for reproductive services. So, my colleague from Alabama is more concerned with pushing his ideological agenda than with the realities our troops face, even if that means depriving servicemembers of critical health care. In addition to undermining our national security, this reckless hold is creating chaos for these servicemembers, many of whom will have to relocate their families and put their children in new schools. These promotions are carefully timed to ensure critical positions don’t go unfilled and also that the servicemembers and their families can transition into new homes and schools with as little disruption as possible.
Beyond being reckless and fundamentally ill-informed, the Senator from Alabama’s—I consider it a stunt—is a slap in the face to our servicemembers. They should be able to do their jobs without political interference, without someone putting their ideological agenda ahead of the need for us to make these decisions. For the sake of our servicemembers and our country, we need to end this dangerous blockade.
That’s why, in a moment, I'll be asking the Senate to confirm calendar Number 85. If confirmed, this nominee would command the Navy’s Seventh Fleet, which at any given moment has almost 75 ships and submarines and over 27,000 Sailors and Marines operating in contact with both the Chinese and Russian Navies. Encompassing many Allies, Partners, and competitors, the Pacific and its forward deployed fleet should not be left without its appropriate Commander.
M. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the consideration of Calendar Number 85, that the Senate vote on the nomination, without intervening action or debate; that if confirmed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate; that any statements related to the nomination be printed in the Record; that the President be immediately notified of the Senate’s action.