Biden endorses female generals whose promotions have been delayed because of fear of Trump’s reaction


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WASHINGTON – President Biden has nominated two female generals for elite four-star commandos, the Department of Defense said months after their Pentagon chiefs agreed on their promotions, but withheld them fearing President Donald J. Trump would reject the officers would because you were women.

The nominations of General Jacqueline D. Van Ovost of the Air Force as head of the transport command, which oversees the military’s extensive global transport network, and of Lt. General Laura J. Richardson of the Army as head of the southern command, which oversees the military activities in Latin America are now being forwarded to the Senate, where they are expected to be approved.

The unusual strategy of delaying officers’ promotions – to protect their careers – was developed last fall by Mark T. Esper, then Secretary of Defense, and General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

They both thought the two generals were exceptional officers who deserve the orders. But under Mr. Trump, they feared that candidates other than white men for jobs filled primarily by white men would face opposition once their nominations reached the White House.

Mr. Esper and General Milley feared that if they brought up the names of the women before they step down, Mr. Trump and some of his top aides would replace them with their own candidates.

As a result, Pentagon officials postponed their referrals until after the November election, betting that if Joseph R. Biden Jr. won, he would be more supportive of the selection than Mr. Trump, who sits with Mr. Esper and Mr. Esper had quarreled with General Milley and had a history of demeaning women. They stuck to the plan even after Mr Trump sacked Mr Esper six days after the election.

“They were chosen because they were the best officers for the jobs, and I didn’t want their promotions derailed because someone in the Trump White House saw me recommending them or thought DOD was politics,” Esper said, referring referring to the Department of Defense, said in an interview with the New York Times, which reported the strategy for the first time last month.

“This was not the case,” added Mr Esper. “They were the best qualified. We did the right thing. “

The strategy paid off on Saturday when the Pentagon announced in separate afternoon statements and on Twitter messages from its press secretary John F. Kirby that Mr Biden had endorsed the generals’ promotions and that the White House was officially submitting them to the Senate for approval.

The announcement last month that the Pentagon leadership had withheld the nominations to protect the two officers’ careers from Mr Trump sparked lively debate in military magazines and social media.

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, who left the military last summer after his own entanglement with the White House, argued on the national security blog Lawfare that Mr. Esper and General Milley should have fought with Mr. Trump.

“Maintaining good order and discipline within the military does not mean avoiding difficult debates with the Commander in Chief,” wrote Col. Vindman.

But defenders of Mr Esper and General Milley’s strategy say Colonel Vindman’s argument ignores the civil-military crisis between Mr Trump and top Pentagon leaders this fall. Mr. Trump, angry that they turned against him when he tried to use active duty troops to fight Black Lives Matter protesters, openly despised Mr. Esper of his aides and the public.

Mr Trump appeared to be contradicting the Pentagon at every turn, particularly on social issues.

When General Milley and senior army officials tried to set up a commission to deal with renaming bases named after Confederate generals, Mr Trump reached out to Twitter and swore, “My administration is not even going to rename these great and fabulous ones.” Consider military facilities. ”

Lloyd J. Austin III, the new Secretary of Defense, declined last month to comment on the lengths Mr. Esper and General Milley went to ensure General Van Ovost and General Richardson received their orders. “I would just say that I saw the records of these two women,” he said. “You are excellent.”

Promotions for the military’s top generals and admirals are decided months before they take up their new positions. The delay in formal filing for the two officials’ promotions should therefore not affect when they will start their new jobs, most likely this summer, Pentagon and Congress officials said.

General Van Ovost is a four-star officer who heads the Air Force Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Of the 43 four-star generals and admirals in the US military, she is the only woman.

General Richardson is the three-star commander in chief of the Army Component of the Pentagon’s North Command in San Antonio, which plays an important role in the military support for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s coronavirus vaccination program.

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