Marines Hold Ceremony to Transfer Power but Can't

Commandant's position is one of the military jobs frozen by senator
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2023 6:50 PM CDT
Marines Hold Ceremony to Transfer Power but Can't
Gen. Eric Smith, second from right, salutes Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a ceremony in Washington on Monday.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Gen. David Berger's retirement arrived on schedule Monday after four years atop the Marine Corps, and a colorful ceremony was held, but politics got in the way of a smooth handover of power. "You know, it's been more than a century since the US Marine Corps has operated without a Senate-confirmed commandant," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the crowd at a ceremony at the Marine Corps Barracks in Washington, Politico reports. "Smooth and timely transitions of confirmed leadership are central to the defense of the United States."

The plan was for Gen. Eric Smith to assume the job. But Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville is holding up all nominations for top military positions because he opposes Austin's policy to have the Defense Department cover travel costs when a service member is forced by state laws to go out of state for an abortion or other reproductive care. Tuberville's move could affect the leadership of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force before the year is out, per the AP, as well as the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Gen. Eric Smith has been nominated to be commandant, and he's taking over with temporary status. Unless or until he's confirmed by the Senate, he won't be able to make strategic decisions or even move into the commandant's office. Smith is assistant commandant now, and he'll continue to hold that post at least until there's resolution. "That is my title, and one that I'm proud of," he said at the ceremony. As of Friday, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Monday, 265 senior officers' promotions have been frozen by Tuberville. The military is headed for the point where more than 100 officers would be doing two jobs at once because their replacement isn't approved to move up—including Smith. (More Marine Corps stories.)

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