President Joe Biden revealed on Monday that he has named two female generals for 4-star combatant commander posts, which had been postponed by the Trump administration.
If confirmed by the Senate, Air Force General Jacqueline Van Ovost and Army Lieutenant General Laura Richardson will become the second and third women to head a Combatant Order. Biden praised Van Ovost and Richardson as “two excellent and eminently competent warriors and patriots” during remarks at the White House on International Women’s Day on Monday.
“Each of these women have led careers demonstrating incomparable skill, integrity, and duty to country. And at every step, they’ve also helped push open the doors of opportunity to women in our military, blazing the trail, a little wider, a little brighter, for all proud women following their path and looking to their example,” the President said.
The Trump Pentagon withdrew the women’s nominations and other male officer nominations for promotion because they were sent too early for congressional consideration, two defense officials told CNN on Monday.
According to CNN, Pentagon officials had postponed the women’s promotions to 4-star generals until after the 2020 presidential election, fearing “turmoil” from President Donald Trump’s White House.
Last month, a senior official close to former Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the list of officers numbered about a half-dozen, and that there were fears that others in the White House would try to stymie them for various reasons, including the fact that ties between Esper and Trump, as well as the Pentagon and the White House, were strained.
On Monday, Biden emphasized Van Ovost’s work as commanding general of US Army North, coordinating the military’s medical personnel deployed to help with the coronavirus response, as well as Richardson’s work as commanding general of US Army North, coordinating the military’s medical personnel deployed to help with the coronavirus response during the Obama administration.
The President also spoke on the need to eliminate sexual assault and harassment against women in the military, calling it “nothing less than a threat to our national security.”
“This is going to be an all hands on deck effort under my administration to end the scourge of sexual assault in the military,” he said.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin addressed Biden’s nominations Monday, saying, “Today you are nominating for combatant command two extraordinary military leaders whose lived experience encompasses nearly 70 years of uniformed service in peace and in war.”
“You know that the diversity of our nation makes us stronger and diversity in our military ranks makes us better at defending the American people,” Austin said.
Vice President Kamala Harris also praised the nominations in brief remarks, saying, “While it has only been five years since all combat jobs have opened to women, women have been in the line of fire risking their lives to protect our nation long before that.”