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Harms Done to Families when Promotions for Military Officers are Blocked

By Dr. Diana Fishbein, President of the National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives

October 30, 2023

I am the spouse of a veteran of the United States Navy, incensed by Senator Tuberville’s prolonged blockage of promotions for military officers. Most criticisms are leveled primarily against this single-handed action due to the negative consequences on U.S. readiness in response to any number of threats that challenge us on the ongoing basis. And now, amid the crisis in Israel and Gaza, this policy is having especially dire and immediate impacts on our national security.

With all the media attention directed toward readiness, I would instead like to help the Senator and the American public understand the personal impact on these officers and their families, who most people care deeply about.

Being a member of a military family is inherently stressful, in great part due to frequent relocations, requiring our children to readily adapt to new schools and friends, and spouses to transition their own employment considerably more often than in non-military families. The stress is somewhat mitigated by our reliance on support from our government, the American people, our fellow troops, and our families, who continuously remind us of purpose and structure our expectations.

Blocking promotions for officers adds an unnecessary level of instability and uncertainty in their lives, impeding families’ ability to plan even in the short term. Families that don’t know where the next duty station will be are unable to make decisions about housing, school district, medical care, childcare, pharmacy, human service needs, and every other basic need that others, including the Senator, take for granted.

When promotions are finally granted, they will be forced to immediately relocate to assume billets that have been laid vacant without military leaders to fill them for this considerable period of time. The demands on these families will be extraordinary, with the officers expected to take over quickly without being able to fully engage in the relocation process.

In the past, they always had advance notice to prepare. But now, they cannot plan. When do they sell their house or discontinue their lease? When and where should they look for another place to live? If the spouse works, when do they notify their boss about whether and when they are leaving? What do the children do about enrolling in school and engaging in sports and other extracurricular activities? If any family members need ongoing medical care, how do they quickly identify appropriate providers? What about childcare?

This disruption is likely to cause family separations, with the military member having to be one place while the family stays back to finish out the school year or prepare for a major relocation. Ultimately, the whole family feels the burn, but the effects of this type of stress on children’s social and academic development can be indelible.

And all this, not to mention the pay and benefits these families are losing. Some are due to be elevated up the flag ranks which constitutes a big pay jump that they are being denied for a lengthy time.

Senator Tuberville’s disregard for the sacrifices made by military families and actions that have added to their struggles is coming at a very bad time, as we support Israel and Ukraine in military actions to protect democracies overseas, vital to our security and stability.

Our active-duty troops and their families who have no control over policies enacted by the Pentagon should not be punished. They/we serve our country and ask [and receive] very little in return. I implore Senator Tuberville to consider these consequences and for his congressional colleagues and the public to insist that our officers immediately assume positions that they so greatly deserve.

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