WASHINGTON — Honoring International Women's Day, President Joe Biden announced Monday he has nominated two female generals for appointment to positions as four-star combatant commanders, becoming, if confirmed, only the second and third women in U.S. history to hold that position.
Biden made the announcement in the White House East Room with Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost and Gen. Laura J. Richardson standing behind him.
The nominations of Air Force Gen. Van Ovost to head the Transportation Command and Army Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson to head the Southern Command, now move to the Senate, where they are expected to be approved.
"Each of these women have led careers demonstrating incomparable skill, integrity and duty to country," Biden said. "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 in their path," he added.
Biden said in his administration, women "aren't told no when they apply to fly fighter jets or attack helicopters just because of their gender."
"We need little girls and boys, both who have grown up dreaming of serving for their country to know this is what generals in the United States armed forces look like. This is what vice presidents of the United States look like," he said.
CNN and the New York Times both reported that the women's promotions to 4-star generals had been delayed until after the 2020 election. NYT said that under former President Donald Trump, officials worried that "candidates other than white men for jobs mostly held by white men might run into resistance once their nominations reached the White House."
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin supported Biden's decision to promote Van Ovost and Richardson, saying on Twitter, "Their lived experience encompasses nearly 70 years of uniformed service, and they've led by example every step of the way."
President Biden also used the speech to make the case that more needed to be done to improve conditions for women who serve, including dealing with the scourge of sexual assault and harassment in the ranks. Defense Secretary Austin has promised to make addressing the issue a top priority as reports of sexual assault have steadily gone up since 2006, according to Pentagon data.
Biden called the problem “nothing less than a threat to our national security.”