One senator announced this week that he is placing a hold on all Defense Department nominees until he gets more information on the military's implementation plan for ensuring service members' access to reproductive health care.
The hold, which impacts nine nominees, comes from Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) and would remain in place “until such time as my staff is briefed to my satisfaction on this matter,” according to a letter he sent Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Monday that was provided to Inside Defense.
Austin in mid-October announced he was directing DOD officials to set privacy protections surrounding reproductive health care information; release guidelines stipulating DOD health care providers not disclose reproductive health information to commanders except in special circumstances; and ensure commanders “display objectivity and discretion when addressing reproductive health care matters,” as laid out in a news release at the time.
The moves come after the U.S. Supreme Court over the summer struck down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion a constitutional right.
Tuberville in his letter to Austin this week stated that at the time of Austin’s Oct. 20 announcement, his office had offered a staff-level briefing on DOD’s reproductive health care implementation framework. But Tuberville wrote the subsequently scheduled briefing was canceled Nov. 17 and, as of Monday, hadn’t yet occurred.
A Tuberville spokesman told Inside Defense that DOD's Office of Legislative Affairs has reached out today to reschedule the briefing, and that staff are working to set it up “as soon as this week.”
“Senator Tuberville plans to lift his hold once the briefing has taken place and his questions have been adequately answered,” the spokesman added.
Among the outstanding nominees are Nickolas Guertin, currently the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, who has been tapped to be the Navy's new assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition; and Russell Rumbaugh, who was nominated to serve as Navy comptroller in March. If they and the Biden administration’s seven other DOD picks aren’t advanced by the end of the current Congress, their nominations will have to be resubmitted.