The uncertainty took its toll on their families. Many spouses are unable to accept or start new jobs, while some couples have opted to pay out-of-pocket moving costs for assignments that have yet to be finalized, as this is the only way to enroll their children in new schools.
These same families are losing thousands of dollars a month that they would receive if the promotions had happened on time — as well as the money they lose if their spouses can’t start new jobs. There is currently no mechanism for these military personnel to receive back pay because their salary is tied to their rank.
“It’s a constant calculation about: Does this make sense for him, for me and for our family? said a military wife living in the Washington area, whose husband works for a two-star admiral caught in Tuberville’s grip. The wife, who like other military family members in history, was granted anonymity because she was not authorized to speak. “Lately it seems like it might not be worth it anymore. »
The standoff is becoming a national security issue because military families are thinking twice about continuing to serve, the representative said. Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona), member of the House Armed Services Committee.
“When you have families like that trying to deal with instability, it potentially becomes a recruitment issue,” he said in an interview. “You’re going to start losing some of the best people basically to a stunt. »
President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, warned senators in July that the blockade’s impact on military families could win over talent promising to leave.
“The Spouse Network is alive and well, and spouses will be comparing notes,” Brown said during his confirmation hearing. “The member may want to serve, but spouses and families get a huge vote. »
Tuberville’s blockade will persist at least until next month. The Senate left town in late July until after Labor Day. Neither side is backing down: The Alabama Republican has ruled out giving up his grip in exchange for a vote on blocking abortion policy, while the Pentagon also insists he will not back down, leaving hundreds of officers – and their families – in limbo.
A Navy officer’s wife, a teacher in a Virginia public school district, quit her job in anticipation of the officer’s overseas assignment, according to a Democratic aide to the Senate Armed Services Committee. She is unemployed because she was unable to accept a position in the new location or return to her old school.
The aide also highlighted two Air Force officers who sold their homes in anticipation of relocations and are now living in temporary accommodation. They pay high storage fees with no expectation of reimbursement.
Tuberville argues that his decision is far from unprecedented, arguing that the Pentagon circumvents laws that prohibit taxpayer funding for abortion. “Having grown up in a military family, (Tuberville) honors and respects all who wear the uniform and their families,” spokesman Steven Stafford said in a statement. “His grip is the most effective way for him as a senator to hold the Pentagon accountable for politicizing the greatest military in history.”
Democrats could push for votes on individual candidates — such as service chiefs and top commanders — to circumvent the Tuberville filibuster. But majority leader chuck schumer and other Democrats have so far rejected that approach and insisted it was up to Republicans to convince Tuberville to back down.
“Senator Tuberville continues to act as if military promotions are a partisan game,” the Senate Armed Services Chairman said. Jack Reed (DR.I.) said this week, citing the impact on military families. “His culture warfare pieces hamper the actual ability of the US military to deter, fight, and win real conflict. »
Some of the top Republicans in the Senate, including the Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, publicly disapproved of Tuberville’s tactics. Other Republicans have defended Tuberville’s sway, arguing that the Pentagon’s policy is “illegal” because it violates a law banning the use of federal funds for abortion, a claim the DOD denies. During a hearing in July, Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) Said Schumer could bring the nominations to the Senate for a vote at any time.
“Senator Tuberville has the right to suspend this because he thinks something is illegal,” Mullin said.
A spokesman for the Republican Armed Services Committee did not immediately comment on the blockade’s impact on military families.
The Ministry of Defense marked a solemn milestone on Monday: for the first time in history, three out of eight Joint Staff positions are filled by acting officers. By the end of the year, the Pentagon estimates that about three-quarters of senior officers — 650 out of 852 — will be retained.
The burden of military service is also felt acutely by military children, said a second military wife whose husband is a Space Force officer. Their daughter, now in Grade 10, has attended nine different schools due to family relocations.
“We say spouses have a little more choice, because you say ‘yes’ and you make that conscious decision every year to stay,” the spouse said. “These children were born into this, and they have no choice. »