Female generals’ promotions held back over fears of Trump’s response: report

The promotions of two top female generals were delayed in 2020 because top Department of Defense officials worried that former President Trump would accuse the Pentagon of playing politics and nominating them due to their gender, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

According to the Times, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, feared that Trump would derail the promotions of Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost and Army Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson. The two officials reportedly decided to delay the pair’s promotions to four-star commands until after the November election, thinking that President Biden would be more open to promoting the generals.

“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 that I recommended them or thought D.O.D. was playing politics,” Esper told the newspaper. “This was not the case. They were the best qualified. We were doing the right thing.”

Milley likely would have made the recommendations had Trump won the November election, the Times reports, but he expected the two to have an easier time with the selection process under a Biden White House.

The Hill has reached out to the Pentagon for further comment. 

Van Ovost and Richardson are set to be recommended in the coming weeks by Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to take over U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. Southern Command, respectively, two posts previously held by men.

Esper’s characterization of the delay was disputed by former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who told the Times that it centered on “timing considerations, not that they were women.”

The Defense Department was the subject of another cultural battle in the waning months of the Trump administration due to Democrats’ push to rename U.S. military installations named after figures from the Confederacy, such as Virginia’s Fort Lee. Trump fiercely resisted the push and vetoed the annual National Defense Authorization Act in 2020 over the issue, forcing the Senate to issue its first veto override of Trump’s presidency. 

Tags Donald Trump Joe Biden Lloyd Austin Mark Esper Mark Milley Pentagon
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