The woman who could become the Navy’s next top admiral offered new insight into the effects of Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s hold on military promotions, and even conceded to personal impacts at her Senate confirmation hearing Thursday.
In response to questions by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Adm. Lisa Franchetti, who has been tapped to be the chief of naval operations, said that the hold on promotions will take years to recover from. Franchetti became acting CNO in August and must still be confirmed to the position by a Senate vote.
“I think just at the three-star level it would take about three to four months to move all of the people around,” Franchetti said, before adding that “it will take years to recover from the promotions — if confirmed — for the promotion delays we would see forward.”
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According to a Defense Department document provided to Warren, the Pentagon said its estimate is “nominally five years to return to normal” since the hold has meant all the officers are starting their “time-in-grade counters later than planned.”
The counters affect when an officer will be eligible for their next promotion, which in turn can affect what jobs they are eligible to hold.
“This could increase to six or seven years if the hold remains in place through ,” the document adds.
Franchetti said that “as we continue to not have the confirmed people that we’ve nominated with that experience, we’re going to continue to see an erosion of readiness,” echoing the sentiments of many other military officers and civilian officials at the Pentagon.
The Pentagon’s top spokesman, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, on Tuesday pointed to individual officers being overworked while holding down two major positions as a key impact of the hold.
In response to a question from Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., about a submarine industrial study, Franchetti conceded that she had not been briefed on its results.
“I think it’s just my own bandwidth capacity right now,” she said, before adding that she is performing the role of the vice chief of naval operations as well as acting as the CNO.
Tuberville, R-Ala., has utilized a Senate rule to halt the chamber from confirming officer promotions en masse. Although the Senate can still confirm them individually, that process is much more time consuming.
As a result, the move has stopped the Pentagon from putting nearly 300 officers into new positions and duty stations, and has also delayed confirmation of service chiefs for the Army and Marine Corps.
A memo released by Senate Democrats on Wednesday noted that at least 25 three- and four-star officers were forced to delay retirements to ensure continuity of command because of the holds. Meanwhile, military leaders have provided few specific examples of the harm to families or a specific service, instead choosing to stress broader impacts to national security.
Tuberville has maintained that his reason behind the hold is to halt the Pentagon’s policy of offering time off and travel expenses to service members who seek reproductive health care that is not covered by the military. That includes abortions but also procedures such as in vitro fertilization.
Time off and travel might be needed by troops if they are stationed in a state where abortions are illegal or unavailable.
However, in recent media appearances and public statements, Tuberville has expanded his grievances with the military, and the Navy specifically, to include his belief that they have too many generals and admirals or that those officers are “too woke.”
During Franchetti’s hearing, those themes arose again.
Tuberville himself told Franchetti about an unnamed “vice admiral” who “recently had a party on the ship for the lesbian, gay and trangender group” as an example of actions he saw as divisive.
Meanwhile, Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, again went after a 2021 CNO reading list put together by Franchetti’s predecessor, Adm. Mike Gilday, that included titles like “How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi.
“I don’t know why there’s so much focus on race,” Sullivan said as part of his question to the admiral.
Asked whether she would commit to getting back to what Sullivan sees as “normal reading lists for sailors and Marines,” Franchetti demurred, telling the senator that she “will develop a process” for selecting books for her reading lists but noted that she “will focus on warfighting, warfighters and winning.”
In contrast, the last time Gilday was confronted by Republicans over similar allegations in April — then focused on a brief video of a non-binary sailor who was proud of an opportunity to read a poem to her ship — he offered a full-throated defense of the sailor and the Navy’s push to be more inclusive.
“We ask people from all over the country, from all walks of life, from all different backgrounds to join us,” Gilday told Congress. “Then it’s the job of a commanding officer to build a cohesive warfighting team.
“That level of trust that a commanding officer develops across that unit has to be able to be grounded on dignity and respect,” Gilday said.
Military.com reached out to the Navy over Franchetti’s exchange with Sullivan but did not get a response ahead of publication.
Meanwhile, Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., asked Franchetti whether she believes “that Republicans don’t care about you and your family?”
“As a member of the military, I believe that everyone in Congress supports everyone in our military,” she answered.
— Konstantin Toropin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.
Related: Deferred Retirements, Unemployed Spouses, Field Officers Working as Generals: Democrats’ Memo Details Effects of Tuberville Blocking Military Promotions
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