Politics & Policy

Senate Confirms Lloyd Austin as Biden’s Defense Secretary

Retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin answers questions during his confirmation before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington, January 19, 2021. (Greg Nash/Reuters)

The Senate on Friday voted to confirm Lloyd Austin, a retired four-star Army general, to serve as President Biden’s secretary of defense.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly to confirm Austin in a 93-to-2 vote.

Austin, 67, becomes the first black American to lead the Pentagon in the nation’s history.

Earlier on Thursday, both chambers of Congress approved a waiver that allows Austin to serve as defense secretary despite being retired from active-duty military service for less than the seven years required by law. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had expressed concern about his leading the Pentagon after retiring so recently.

Austin retired from active duty in 2016. Before retiring he led the U.S. Central Command, overseeing all military operations in the Middle East.

“I understand and respect the reservations some of you have expressed about having another recently retired general at the head of the Department of Defense,” Austin told the Armed Services Committee during a hearing Tuesday, referencing President Trump’s nomination of Jim Mattis, who had been retired from active service for only four years.

“The safety and security of our democracy demands competent civilian control of our armed forces, the subordination of military power to the civil,” Austin said, promising that if confirmed he would “carry out the mission of the Department of Defense, always with the goal to deter war and ensure our nation’s security, and I will uphold the principle of civilian control of the military, as intended.”

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