The Pentagon is likely to reorganize its top leadership positions, including having officers take on acting roles, as many military confirmations remain held up, according to a new memo from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

The Aug. 2 memo, obtained by CNN, says that officers of lower ranks than who normally fill those positions can be assigned to leadership roles. The effort will be to “mitigate the harm” caused by a hold up of the confirmation process. The Pentagon has been dealing with delays filling roles due to political fighting in Congress. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) has held up multiple confirmation processes for senior military officials, calling on the Department of Defense to end a policy that pays for travel expenses for reproductive healthcare such as abortion. 

Those delays are a “cascading effect, increasingly hindering the normal operations of this Department and undermining both our military readiness and our national security,” Austin wrote in the memo. Additionally, he said that these moves will not end the “risk to our readiness” or “alleviate the worries rippling further down our ranks” but are meant to be short-term workarounds while the appointments are delayed. 

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Currently, several top positions, including the Marine Corps Commandant and Army Chief of Staff, do not have confirmed leaders. Other roles, such as the head of the Missile Defense Agency remain unfilled. In that case, a one-star general is serving as the acting leader. Per Austin’s memo, incumbent leaders of certain military organizations might be asked to stay in those roles and perform the needed duties until confirmations can be done. Those who are in line to succeed certain posts can exercise the duties of the office in an acting capacity. 

On Friday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville retired, without a replacement in place for his role. Gen. Eric Smith, assistant commandant for the Marine Corps and the current acting commandant, has been nominated but not confirmed. Smith issued a letter this past week, serving as a kind of temporary guidance as he cannot issue an official one until confirmed, giving a broad outline that he intends to focus on modernizing the Marine Corps and boosting enlistment and retention in the service.

Austin and Tuberville have spoken at least twice since the delays began, but it’s unclear when the impasse will end, or what additional steps Austin will take. 

Political disputes also held up efforts to cover bonus pay and permanent change of station moves for U.S. Air Force personnel. At the heart of the matter was the decision about whether or not to move U.S. Space Command’s headquarters from Colorado Springs, CO to Huntsville, Alabama. The decision was recently made to keep the headquarters in Colorado. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Alabama), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, has threatened to issue subpoenas about that choice. 

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