Senate Approves Back Pay For Delayed Military Promotions

Doing the right thing after doing the wrong thing.

One from a couple days ago I didn’t have time to note in real time:

POLITICO (“Senate approves back pay for military officers caught in Tuberville’s blockade“):

The Senate on Thursday approved legislation to grant back pay to senior military officers whose promotions were delayed for months by Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s hold on nominations.

The Alabama senator had blocked confirmation of general and flag officer promotions for 10 months in protest over the Pentagon’s policy of reimbursing troops who travel to seek abortions. He finally relented last week, allowing more than 400 military nominees to be confirmed.

In the wake of the blockade, senators in both parties pushed to compensate officers who during the impasse had lost out on increased pay that would have come with a higher rank.

The bill, passed by unanimous consent before the Senate left for the week, was introduced by Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), both members of the Armed Services Committee. Tuberville himself was among the first co-sponsors of the bipartisan bill.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor that the bill’s passage signals that troops and their families “don’t deserve to be penalized in any way” for Tuberville’s unprecedented blockade.


The measure must still pass the House, but will likely have to wait for a vote there. Lawmakers from the lower chamber left earlier Thursday for the rest of the year, but could take up the measure in January when they return to session.

I fully expect the House to follow suit. Indeed, while I hadn’t heard this was being considered before seeing the above report, I long presumed this would happen.

It’s unclear if this means the effective dates of promotion are also being back-dated, although I presume that’s the case. Considering that many of these people worked in the higher billet at lower pay, it’s the least Congress can do.

But this is another instance of the bizarreness of our process. Every time we go through the bizarre spectacle of a government shutdown, for example, we pay federal workers for their lost paychecks. (Leave accrual, pension benefits, and some other benefits take a minor hit.) Again, it’s the right thing to do, compensating folks who were harmed through no fault of their own. But it would be far better not to go through charades like shutting down the government or delaying military promotions to begin with.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    I fully expect the House to follow suit.

    I wish I shared your optimism. But I hope you’re right and our Congress critters do the right thing. If only they didn’t have to wait until after Christmas recess.

  2. steve says:

    This was the right thing to do but the lesson has been learned that you can shut down the Senate for months without any negative consequences. It will happen again.


  3. Richard Gardner says:

    I remember back in 89 or so the Navy had a major funding issue in the officer account (BUPERS manpower). What did they do? They delayed all the junior officer promotions from O-2 to O-3 (at the 4 year point) after the Naval Academy grads (so all the ROTC and a few OCS) until the next Fiscal Year, 3-4 months to Oct 1 for YG 85 (Maybe it was YG 84). Meanwhile no field grade were delayed. I think they were “frocked” (officially promoted, but not paid for it). I personally knew someone whose home loan approval was revoked because it was based on the amount they should have been making the next month.
    Result? Worst officer retention past initial commitment ever. Even the Naval Academy grads bailed seeing how Big Navy treated their co-workers. The post Cold War draw down largely covered this up and the Navy didn’t have to RIF (Reduction in Force) junior officers as they had a huge shortage (referred to as “the hole” – and ditto few early retirements approved in the 90s compared to USA and USAF).
    Anyway, this approval is peanuts (important to the individuals certainly) in the overall DoD manpower funding. And “suck it up” is BS.