Pentagon delayed promotion of top female US generals amid fears Trump would 'derail' nominations

The promotions of two top female US generals were delayed last year because Pentagon chiefs feared that Donald Trump would accuse them of playing identity politics and nominating the officers because of their gender.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Esper said he didn't want the nominations derailed - Reuters (C) Reuters Esper said he didn't want the nominations derailed - Reuters

Mark Esper, Mr Trump's defence secretary at the time, and General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reportedly feared the US president would derail the nominations of Air Force General Jacqueline Van Ovost and Army Lt. General Laura Richardson. Mr Esper told the New York Times the two leaders decided to delay the pair's promotions to four-star commands until after the presidential election last November, in the belief that Joe Biden would be more open to promoting the generals if he won the White House.

"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 [Department of Defence] was playing politics," Mr Esper told the newspaper. The former defence secretary added: "This was not the case. They were the best qualified.

We were doing the right thing."

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Mr Esper's successor at the Pentagon, former General Lloyd Austin, and General Milley are expected to send the delayed recommendations to the White House in the coming weeks. It is widely expected that Mr Biden will support the nominations of the top generals, whose promotions will then go to the Senate for approval. General Van Ovost will be nominated to lead the Transportation Command, which oversees the US military's sprawling global transportation network.

General Richardson will be nominated to head of the Southern Command, which oversees military activities in Latin America. Both posts have previously been held by men. Some former Trump administration officials disputed the suggestion that any nominations were delayed because the candidates were female, insisting it was because the Senate would not have time to consider them at the end of last year.

"It was about timing considerations, not that they were women," Christopher Miller, who was appointed acting defence secretary by Mr Trump, told the New York Times.

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