The Marine Corps has always been known as the smallest and fiercest force, and with the promotions being held, it is now without its leading Marine. Commandant General David Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, retired from military service. For the next Commandant to be able to move into that position, his promotion would need to be confirmed by a full Senate. This has not been done. General Eric Smith has been nominated for the job, but until the Senate confirms him, General Smith will continue as assistant commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.
The position of Commandant of the Marine Corps is a long-standing position since the birth of the Marine Corps. The first Commandant was Samuel Nicholas, who was officially appointed “Captain of Marines” in November of 1775 – his final rank as Commandant was a Major. Today, Commandants are Generals. To date, there have been 38 Commandants of the Marine Corps. As the highest ranking position within the Marine Corps, the commandant is nominated for appointment by the president and confirmed by Senate. The tenure of the position has been four years since 1944, unless there is a national emergency declared by Congress or during times of war. The longest-serving Commandant was General Archibald Henderson, who served for 38 years, and his name graces many halls and street names on Marine Corps bases.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps is not the only position that is awaiting Senate confirmation. Senate confirmation is required for senior-level officers, also called flag officers. These positions are Generals and Admirals among the military service branches and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – the military leaders advising the President, Secretary of Defense, National Security Council and Homeland Security Council on all things Defense department related.
Within military unit history, many units have service members working in acting positions. This means they do not have the title of commander but are working in those positions. The reality is that the military service branch will continue to work, and the military mission will continue. However, an acting Commandant will have to form decision-making based on current policies, unable to change or shape what is needed based on the geopolitical need at the present time.
Approving military nominations and promotions has long been a bipartisan act within the Senate. At the time of this writing, Senator Tuberville states he will not move forward on nominations and promotions until the majority of Democrats allow a vote on the Pentagon policy allowing service members to travel to another state for an abortion if the state they are in does not provide it. Tuberville has asked that the Democrats introduce their own bill on the Pentagon policy, and put it up for a vote. The Democrats have stated that it is up to the Republicans to change Senator Tuberville’s mind on the continued hold.
But why is one person holding up nominations and promotions? In the Senate, the rules are that unanimous consent must be present to move forward with the nominations and promotions – it is not just a majority rule or vote. Before the August Recess, when the nominations have been called up, Senator Tuberville objected. Due to these rules, one who does not want to move forward can hold the vote for as long as they want. To get around the hold, roll call votes for each individual would have to be held – which has not been done, and with August recess in full session cannot be done until after everyone returns from recess. Per the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Jack Reed, doing a roll call vote with the regular procedure would take over 80 days if the Senate worked 8-hour workdays.
This historical move will certainly go down in history books, and has led to conversation on how things operate in the Senate. Will it lead to change? Can it lead to change?