The communities that our military calls home are committed to a “One Community” approach that strengthens the relationship across an installation’s fence line, to include neighbors, schools and small businesses outside the base as well as inside.
When uncertainty begins to impact the troops’ mission, it also impacts that wider “One Community” of military families, and everyone in the towns and cities that support us. We and that wider community are watching Washington’s delays of the confirmation and promotions of hundreds of senior military officers with growing alarm.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and seven former defense secretaries who served under presidents from both parties have said that promotion delays present a national security risk. We are experiencing a different sort of risk — crippling uncertainty.
First, it creates a leadership vacuum for some missions and units that are awaiting new commanders. Our men and women in uniform know their responsibilities and perform them dutifully but also deserve a clear chain of command.
For an officer, the uncertainty as to when or if they will receive a hard-earned promotion can cause great anxiety and stress for his or her whole family. They don’t know when they will move or where their children will start the next school year. Their spouse’s job search is likely put on hold. In many cases, these senior officers are well-known and respected members of our communities who contribute a great deal to their neighbors, and it’s disheartening to see them put in such a situation.
And every day that a senior military officer is denied promotion to a new assignment is a day when a junior officer is denied the opportunity to advance. When promised jobs and therefore pay raises are delayed for service members of any rank, they tighten belts and pinch pennies, waiting for it to pass. In the short term, they aren’t able to fully support our local restaurants, retailers and other small businesses. In the long term, they think about the predictability of jobs in the private sector, and consider getting out.
For young people thinking about signing up, watching how one person in Washington, D.C., can block the careers of dozens of service members just to make a political point, it doesn’t make the military a more attractive option for them.
When men and women sign up to serve their fellow Americans, they trust that our nation will have their back just as they have ours. Defense community leaders and our neighbors work hard to support those military families, and we feel elected leaders should keep the same promise.
Karen Holt is the president of the Association of Defense Communities, and has played an advocacy role with Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, for almost two decades. Today, as Director of Economic Development, she serves as Hartford County’s liaison to APG and more than 155 defense contractors promoting community resources to industry.
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