Joe Biden, Deniz Kuvvetleri Komutanlığı'na katılan ilk kadın komutan olarak Amiral Lisa Franchetti'yi aday gösterdi

A deepening Senate stalemate clouds a historic hand-off at the Navy

Following his retirement ceremony Monday at the U.S. Naval Academy, Adm. Mike Gilday’s photograph was taken down from a display at the Pentagon showing the current members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But Adm. Lisa Franchetti, the 4-star admiral nominated to be his replacement as Chief of Naval Operations, will have to wait for her photo to go up. Like the Army and the Marine Corps, the Navy will be run by an acting chief for the foreseeable future because the Senate stalemate over military confirmations seems to be hardening by the day.

“For the first time in the history of the Department of Defense, three of our military services are operating without Senate-confirmed leaders. This is unprecedented, it is unnecessary, and it is unsafe,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin noted during Monday’s retirement ceremony. 

Senator Tommy Tuberville, Alabama Republican, has blocked his fellow lawmakers from voting by unanimous consent — the standard practice for military promotions — over new Defense Department’s abortion policies, which cover all expenses for service members who go to another state for a procedure, put in place after the Supreme Court struck down a constitutional right to an abortion in 2022. Critics have called the Defense Department’s practice “abortion tourism” and a violation of the principle that taxpayer money should not help fund abortions.

Under federal law, military hospitals can only perform hospital in case of rape or incest or if the mother’s life is at risk.

Mr. Austin said the hold is “undermining America’s military readiness” and hindering the Pentagon’s ability to retain the best officers. But Mr. Tuberville has countered that none of the positions are vacant. Even without a Senate vote, Adm. Franchetti will be carrying out the day-to-day duties of chief of naval operations.

“Further, the Senate can still confirm these nominees, but [Democratic Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer refuses to put them up for a vote,” Mr. Tuberville’s office said in a statement.

Neither Secretary Austin nor Mr. Tuberville has publicly indicated a willingness to compromise on the Pentagon’s abortion policy.

The quarrel over abortion policy has put a damper on Adm. Franchetti’s historic accomplishment as the first woman to sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Adm. Linda L. Fagan is commandant of the Coast Guard but that service falls under the Department of Homeland Security rather than the Defense Department.

Adm. Gilday is the third military chief in recent weeks to leave his position without a Senate-confirmed successor. Gen. James McConville, the former Army chief of staff, and Gen. David Berger, the former commandant of the Marine Corps, stepped down and left their deputies to assume the role in an acting capacity. 

Gen. Randy George, the vice chief of staff of the Army, and Gen. Eric Smith, the assistant commandant, are among the list of more than 300 generals and admirals waiting for a Senate vote. 

“The smooth and swift transitions of confirmed leadership are central to the defense of the United States and to the full strength of the most lethal fighting force in history,” Mr. Austin said. “It is time for the Senate to confirm all of our superbly-qualified military nominees” — including Adm. Franchetti. 

Mr. Tuberville has accused the Pentagon‘s abortion regulations are part of a larger push to promote “woke” social policies on diversity, political extremism and even COVID vaccine mandates.

“The Biden administration has created the most politicized Pentagon in American history and it is ruining the last trusted American institution – the U.S. armed forces,” Mr. Tuberville’s office said.

The number of blank spaces on the wall at the Pentagon is likely to expand. 

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, will step down next month. President Biden nominated the current Air Force Chief of Staff  Gen. Charles Q. Brown as his replacement and Air Force Gen. Dave Allvin to lead that service.