The US Senate confirmed retired General Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense on Friday, new President Joe Biden’s second cabinet candidate to receive approval, and the first African American to head the Pentagon.
Austin sailed through with overwhelming support from both Biden’s Democrats and Opposition Republicans, who voted 93-2 for him.
The retired four-star general will be the first African American to head the Department of Defense, taking on the job as the Pentagon sees the need for greater efforts to eradicate racism from the ranks and give minorities more opportunities for leadership positions.
Biden selected Austin, and the Senate approved him despite a law that says the U.S. military must be led by a civilian or, if a former military official, someone who has not served in at least seven years.
The requirement is to ensure civilian control of the military.
That meant both convention houses had to give Austin, who retired in 2016, a waiver.
Biden chose a former officer he knew well when he was vice president in Barack Obama’s administration.
Austin, a West Point graduate who served four decades in the military, served as the commander of the U.S. Forces in Iraq from 2010 to 2016 and then head of U.S. Central Command for the Middle East.
The two teamed up because Austin was friends with Biden’s late son when they both served in Iraq.
Biden called him “uniquely qualified to take on the challenges and crises we are facing in the present moment” when he announced the nomination in December.
Known for being media-shy and not particularly politically savvy, Austin quickly tweeted a statement after gaining Senate approval.
“It is an honor and a privilege to serve as our country’s 28th Secretary of Defense and I am particularly proud to be the first African American to hold this position,” he wrote.
“Let’s go to work.”
Main threats: China, extremism
In his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, he addressed two urgent problems facing the US military.
He highlighted China as the country’s strongest opponent.
Under his leadership, the Pentagon would “ensure that we are ready to rise to any challenge and that we continue to provide a credible deterrent to China or any attacker who wants to take over us and convince them that this is really bad.” Idea, “he said.
He also pledged to tackle extremists in the armed forces after some members of the military participated in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
“The activity that we have recently seen in relation to potential racist or extremist behavior among our ranks is, in my opinion, absolutely unacceptable,” said Austin.
“The Department of Defense’s job is to protect America from our enemies. But we can’t if some of those enemies are in our own ranks,” he added.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)