Shelby, Tuberville back Mobile native’s historic confirmation as defense secretary

Clay Curtis
January 22, 2021

The US Senate has confirmed retired general Lloyd Austin as secretary of defence, the second cabinet nominee of new President Joe Biden to gain approval, and the first African American to lead the Pentagon.

A Senate vote on Mr Austin's confirmation was scheduled for Friday morning.

"The subordination of military power to the civil", Austin, 67, said during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

Austin served more than 40 years in the military and was the commander of the U.S. Central Command from 2013 to 2016. President Donald Trump nominated Mattis to be his defense secretary less than seven years after the general retired from the Marine Corps.

He was the first Black vice chief of staff of the Army in 2012 and also served as director of the Joint Staff, a behind-the-scenes job that gave him an intimate view of the Pentagon's inner workings.

Austin, who would be the first Black man to run the department, had to be granted a waiver from a law requiring a defense secretary to wait seven years after active-duty service before taking the job.

Austin sailed through with overwhelming support from both Biden's Democrats and opposition Republicans, who voted 93-2 in his favor.

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Rep. Adam Smith, the chairman of the Committee, said on Monday Jan. 18, that he sent a letter to House Democrats requesting that they vote in favor of a nomination waiver.

Austin's confirmation was complicated by his status as a recently retired general.

Senator Jack Reed, the incoming Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, noted the wide range of challenges facing the country - including the coronavirus pandemic and competition with China and Russian Federation. "Let's get to work". It's a move that lawmakers of both parties said at the time - and have repeated now - should be rare to preserve the tradition of civilian control of the military.

Austin is the third person to be granted the waiver of the 1947 law, which was meant to ensure civilian control of the military. ". I can only say that four years from now, I hope we are not having the exact same debate because it will prove that we have learned nothing from this".

A 1975 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., Austin commanded infantry units from platoons up and led soldiers in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I have no doubt that civilian control of the military will be completely upheld by Secretary-designate Austin when he is our Secretary of Defense", he wrote.

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