Senate confirms Smith as next Marine Corps commandant

By Nick Wilson / September 21, 2023 at 2:38 PM

The Senate voted 96-0 to confirm Gen. Eric Smith to become the next Marine Corps commandant, filling the service's top post after Sen. Tommy Tuberville's (R-AL) continuing hold on military nominations left the position vacant for more than two months.

While Tuberville continues to block the Senate’s normal confirmation process, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) scheduled individual votes for Smith and two other senior Defense Department officials this week, also confirming Air Force Gen. Charles "C.Q." Brown as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gen. Randy George as the Army chief of staff.

Smith has served as the Marine Corps’ acting commandant since former Commandant Gen. David Berger retired in July at the conclusion of his four-year term. In this role, Smith has juggled the responsibilities of the service’s top two positions, shouldering the duties of commandant while continuing to manage the responsibilities of his prior role as assistant commandant.

Smith, who was initially nominated to serve as the 39th commandant in May, has said performing both roles at once is not sustainable and indicated the growing list of unconfirmed officials is a drag on Marine Corps readiness.

In an interim guidance published in August, Smith committed to continuing the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 trajectory and outlined accelerated modernization, naval integration and organic mobility as warfighting priorities.

In the Senate, Tuberville has unilaterally stalled more than 300 nominations across the Defense Department in opposition to a policy that provides leave and travel assistance for servicemembers seeking abortion services.

Until this week, Schumer resisted bringing individual nominations to the floor for consideration, warning the move could set a precedent that slows the nomination process further.

A Congressional Research Service report found it would take more than 30 days of around-the-clock work -- over 700 continuous hours -- for the Senate to confirm all of these nominees by individual vote, or about 89 days if Senators worked for eight hours a day.

Meanwhile, the Navy still lacks a confirmed service chief, with assistant Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti serving as the acting CNO while her nomination awaits Senate approval. The Air Force is also without a confirmed leader with Gen. David Allvin’s nomination pending.