The Senate voted on Friday, January 22, 2021, to confirm President Joe Biden’s defense secretary pick retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, who will be the first African American to run the department.
Austin, who retired in 2016 and 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. The House approved the waiver Thursday afternoon, followed by Senate approval of the measure.
Thursday’s votes green-lighting the waiver cleared the way for Friday’s final confirmation in the Senate.
Confirmation of the defense secretary gives Biden another key department chief in place as congressional Democratic leaders attempt to move swiftly to confirm Cabinet members and other key officials following Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. The Senate confirmed
President Joe Biden’s first Cabinet nominee Wednesday evening, voting to approve his pick for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, on his first day in office.
In the run-up to his confirmation vote, Austin has worked to overcome objections from some lawmakers to allowing a recently retired general to assume the top civilian post at the Pentagon.
He addressed those concerns directly at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday afternoon, saying, “If confirmed, I will 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.”
“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,” he said at the hearing. “The safety and security of our democracy demand competent civilian control of our armed forces, the subordination of military power to the civil.”