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Retired General Lloyd Austin Confirmed By Senate As First Black Defense Secretary

Amy Pilkington 23 Jan 2021

President Joe Biden's term has just begun, but he's already made his intentions clear when it comes to choosing a cabinet that's both highly experienced and made up of as many diverse perspectives as possible.

Over the last couple of days, the Senate has been confirming those picks and on Friday, January 22, retired General Lloyd Austin made history as the first African American Secretary of Defense.

Austin retired in 2016, after a long military career that gives him the sort of experience a defense secretary needs.

Prior to his retirement, he was the first African American commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) and was the final commanding general for Operation New Dawn in Iraq.

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In order for Austin to be confirmed as Secretary of Defense, a waiver was required from the House.

This is due to a law that requires a defense secretary to have retired from active-duty for a minimum of seven years before serving in the civilian cabinet post. The House approved that waiver on January 21, paving the way for Senate confirmation.

The same waiver process was used by then-President Trump to allow for Jim Mattis to be confirmed as his first Secretary of Defense.

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Austin's confirmation passed the Senate with a vote of 93-2.

The two no votes were from Republican Senators Mike Lee of Utah, and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

Mitch McConnell also expressed concern about the precedent being set by two waivers in a row.

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For his part, Austin worked hard to prove that he took the new role seriously as a civilian post.

At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier in the week, he said:

"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.

"The safety and security of our democracy demands competent civilian control of our armed forces, the subordination of military power to the civil."

h/t: CNN

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