By Brandon Concannon Colter
The Senate voted this week to confirm retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin as the 28th Secretary of Defense after granting a waiver to a rule that bars military flag officers from the position for seven years after retiring.
Austin broke many barriers with his confirmation: he is the first African American Secretary of Defense and the third general to receive a waiver to serve in the position — joining Marine Gen. Jim Mattis under President Trump and Army Gen. George Marshall under President Truman.
Some senators expressed concern that granting a waiver would set a precedent for automatically approving the request and cause an eventual migration away from the tradition of civilian control of the military. However, senators ultimately voted to approve Austin by a 93-2 vote.
Secretary Austin has a long history of service. He attended the Military Academy at West Point and served over 40 years in the U.S. Army. He also held one of the most prestigious command positions for Central Command — another barrier Secretary Austin broke through, as when he assumed command of Central Command, he was the first African American to hold that command position.
The confirmation of the top DoD official was a quick one. The first hearing regarding this nomination occurred less than 10 days ago. On January 21, 2021, the Senate and House passed legislation for the waiver of seven years for Secretary Austin. On the following day the Senate confirmed the new Secretary. This swift confirmation ensures that the DoD can continue to carry out its mission with little transition time.
MAIN PHOTO: Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff joined The Honorable Mr. John M. McHugh, Secretary of the Army, and Gen. Lloyd Austin, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army in celebrating the Army’s 237th birthday at the cake cutting ceremony in the Pentagon Courtyard in Washington, D.C. on June 14, 2012. (DOD Photo By: U.S. Army Staff Sgt Sun L. Vega)