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Promotions for Female Generals Were Delayed Over Fears of Trump’s Reaction

Promotions for Female Generals Were Delayed Over Fears of Trump’s Reaction

Both before he was elected and while he was playing the role of president, Donald Trump wasn’t exactly celebrated for his efforts to empower women. He routinely disparaged them. It now it appears that’s why last fall the Pentagon’s senior leaders delayed recommending two accomplished female officers for promotion to the elite rank of four-star general.

The two officers, Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost of the Air Force and Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson of the Army were exceptionally qualified. But then-Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were concerned that Trump would scuttle their promotions in favor of his own candidates. So Esper and Milley developed an unusual strategy. They decided to withhold putting forth Ovost and Richardson until after the Nov. 3 presidential election, making the bet that if Joe Biden won he would be supportive of their promotions.

Gen. Laura Richardson is seated behind and to the right of U.S. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley during 2016 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama walks with US Air Force Col. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost, Commander, 89th Airlift Wing, Joint Base Andrews, on his way to board Air Force One September 25, 2011 (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

In an interview with The New York Times, Esper said, “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. This was not the case. They were the best qualified. We were doing the right thing.”

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It looks like the Esper/Milley gambit is going to pay off. Newly confirmed Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, and Milley are expected to send the delayed recommendations to the White House. It’s expected that the Biden White House will endorse the nominations and formally submit them to the Senate for approval.

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