Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III testifies Tuesday during a Senate Armed Services hearing to examine President Biden's proposed budget request for the fiscal year 2024. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo
March 28 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin urged the Senate to allow the promotions of more than 100 senior military officials as Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., continues to block the promotions because of his opposition to the Defense Department's reproductive healthcare accommodations.
In a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Austin said holding up the military promotions creates a domestic security risk that reverberates throughout the armed forces.
"There are a number of things happening globally that indicate that we could be in a contest on any one given day," Austin said, according to Politico. "Not approving the recommendations for promotions actually creates a ripple effect through the force that makes us far less ready than we need to be."
"The effects are cumulative and it will affect families. It will affect kids going to schools because they won't be able to change their duty station," he said.
Tuberville, a member of the committee, has continued to stand in the way of confirming both civilian Defense Department nominees and military officials as long as the department provides flexibility and travel expenses for non-covered reproductive healthcare.
In February, Austin signed a memorandum Ensuring Access to Reproductive Health Care, which allows troops who are pregnant to take leave to pursue assisted reproductive technology or a non-covered abortion. On Tuesday, Austin said this is important because 20% of troops are women and they cannot choose where they are stationed.
"So almost 80,000 of our women are stationed in places where they don't have access to non-covered reproductive health care," Austin said.
Military promotions typically pass quickly with little resistance. The Senate will often approve large groups of promotions with a single motion. With Tuberville's objection, the Senate may have to vote to approve promotions one at a time, according to The Hill.
"This is about not forcing the taxpayers of this country to fund abortion. That's been a bipartisan consensus for more than 40 years," Tuberville said on Tuesday. "The American taxpayer [is] on the hook to pay for travel and time off for elective abortion."