Echoing a similar maneuver by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) that has halted the promotions of hundreds of military generals, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is threatening to place a similar block on Army civilian nominations until the service invests over $40 million in housing at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
There are five pending civilian nominees that need to be confirmed by the Senate Armed Services, according to a Senate website. The positions are two assistant secretaries for defense, an under secretary for defense policy, under secretary for the Air Force and a nuclear defense safety board official. At least two have had confirmation hearings but their nominations have not been voted on.
If the Army doesn’t invest a “promised” $41.4 million in housing at the base, Hawley wrote in a letter sent Thursday to Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, he would put the nominations in jeopardy using Senate procedural rules.
The letter comes amid a damaging GAO report about health and safety concerns at military barracks due to mold infestations, broken infrastructure and overall neglect.
Hawley’s threat follows Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville’s hold up of more than 600 military nominations over a Department of Defense policy covering travel costs for members seeking reproductive health care including abortions when the procedures are outlawed in the state they are stationed. Tuberville’s move led to an unusual weigh in on politics by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin who called the holds “unprecedented,” “unnecessary,” and “unsafe.”
While Hawley’s letters and public comments note Fort Leonard Wood has “housing in need of replacement,” he does not include specific details on problematic conditions there.
“As a matter of policy, we do not comment on correspondence between Congressional members and the Secretary of the Army. The Secretary will respond back to the Senator directly as appropriate,” according to an Army spokesperson.
Subscribe to Task & Purpose Today. Get the latest military news and culture in your inbox daily.
Hawley said his decision to place a hold on nominations comes after numerous letters to the Army pushing for updates and action on the base’s housing.
Fort Leonard Wood is primarily a training base, home to the Army’s Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, the Army Engineer School, Army CBRN School and Army Military Police School. Fort Leonard Wood is also one of five locations where new recruits undergo basic training.
“The soldiers and families at Fort Leonard Wood deserve better, and it is your responsibility to deliver for them,” Hawley wrote. “I promise you I will continue to work tirelessly to secure adequate housing for Fort Leonard Wood, and I keep my promises.”
In December 2022, the Army identified 1,142 family homes at the base in need of repair. Under Secretary Camarillo pledged to Hawley that the Army would spend $41.4 million in fiscal 2023 and $50 million in fiscal 2024 on new homes, according to the Senator.
Hawley said that Wormuth acknowledged Camarillo’s pledge in a phone call over the summer but that her staff recently said that funds would not be available until December 15, at the earliest.
He also said that the Army failed to produce a replacement plan for housing at Fort Leonard Wood, despite Wormuth’s commitment to do so during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on May 5, 2022.
“Beyond your inability to even produce your plan, what investment you have promised has now failed to materialize,” he wrote. “The deadline has now come and gone, and given your record I have real doubts that Fort Leonard Wood will receive this investment before the end of the calendar year.”
UPDATE: 10/6/2023: This article has been updated to include a comment from the Army received after publication.
The latest on Task & Purpose
- These are the real-life soldiers behind the characters in ‘Band of Brothers’
- The 5 best books about Navy SEALs — according to Navy SEALs
- Green Berets vs Navy SEALs: Inside the Best Combat Diver Competition
- If the government shuts down, here’s what troops can expect
- 5th Special Forces Group wins 2023 Best Combat Diver Competition