The Senate confirmed this Friday the retired general Lloyd Austin at the head of the Pentagon, the first black secretary of defense in the history of the United States.
The 93-2 vote gave President Joe Biden his second cabinet member; Avril haines she was confirmed Wednesday as the first woman to serve as director of national intelligence. Biden is expected to gain approval from other members of his national security team in the coming days, including Antony Blinken as secretary of state.
Biden is looking for Austin to restore stability at the top of the Pentagon, that went through two secretaries of defense confirmed by the Senate and four who held the position on an interim basis during the Trump administration.
Austin’s confirmation was complicated by his status as a recently retired general. He demanded an exemption from the legal prohibition for a military officer to serve as a secretary of defense within seven years of retirement.
Austin retired in 2016 after serving as the first black general to head the US Central Command.He was the first Deputy Chief of Staff of the Black Army in 2012 and also served as director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a behind-the-scenes job. It gave him an intimate insight into the inner workings of the Pentagon.
Austin retired in 2016 after serving as the first black general to head the US Central Command Photo: AFP
The House and Senate approved the waiver on Thursday, clearing the way for the Senate confirmation vote.
Austin, a big man With a booming voice and a tendency to shy away from publicity, he describes himself as the son of a postal worker and a housewife from Thomasville, Georgia. Promised speak one’s mind Congress and Biden.
At his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Austin said he had not sought the nomination but was ready to lead the Pentagon without holding on to his military status and fully aware that being a political appointee and cabinet member requires “a different perspective and unique duties of a career “in uniform.
As Vice President, Biden worked closely with Austin in 2010-11 to reduce military involvement of the United States in Iraq, while Austin was the main commander of the United States in Baghdad.
Biden worked closely with Austin in 2010-11 to reduce US military involvement in Iraq. Photo: AFP
US forces withdrew completely, only to return in 2014 after the ISIS group captured large swaths of Iraqi territory. At Central Command, Austin was a key architect of the strategy to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Biden said in December when he announced Austin as his nominee that he considered him “the person we need right now “and that he relies on Austin to ensure civilian control of the armed forces.
Critics of the nomination have questioned the wisdom of making an exception to the law against a recently retired military officer serving as secretary of defense, noting that the ban was in place to protect yourself against military influence improper in matters of national security.
Only twice before has Congress waived the ban: in 1950 for George C. Marshall during the Korean War and in 2017 for Jim Mattis, the retired Navy general who served as President Donald Trump’s first Pentagon chief.
Austin has promised to surround himself with qualified civilians. And he made it clear in his confirmation hearing that he accepts Biden’s early focus on fight the pandemic of coronavirus.
“I will quickly review the department’s contributions to coronavirus relief efforts, ensuring that we are making everything possible, and something else, to help distribute vaccines across the country and vaccinate our troops and maintain preparedness, “he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
When questioned by the senators, Austin vowed to address the white supremacy and violent extremism in the military ranks, problems that received relatively little public attention from his immediate predecessor, Mark Esper.
Austin promised “get rid of our ranks of racists“and said that he takes the problem personally.