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Army general Lloyd Austin confirmed as first Black Defense Secretary

Justin Vallejo
·3 min read
El principal comandante de Estados Unidos para el Medio Oriente, el general Lloyd Austin (AP)
El principal comandante de Estados Unidos para el Medio Oriente, el general Lloyd Austin (AP)

The Senate has confirmed Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense, making the retired Army general the first African American to run the department.

The 67-year-old was confirmed in a 93-2 vote after both chambers of Congress earlier granted a waiver to a law requiring a defence secretary wait seven years after active-duty service before taking the job.

He is the second member of Joe Biden’s cabinet to receive approval from the Senate following the confirmation of Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence on Wednesday.

Following the confirmation, Mr Austin tweeted a photo of himself with the president saying it was time to “get to work”.

“It’s an honour and a privilege to serve as our country’s 28th Secretary of Defense, and I’m especially proud to be the first African American to hold the position,” he said in the tweet.

The two votes against Mr Austin becoming the 28th Secretary of Defence came from Republicans Mike Lee, of Utah, and Josh Hawley, of Missouri.

The former four-star general served in the military for 41 years, rising to commander of the US Central Command overseeing the campaign against Isis in Iraq and Syria, and vice chief of staff to the US Army, before retiring in 2016.

In the confirmation hearing, Mr Austin acknowledged concerns over military control of the Pentagon for a second administration in a continued break from the tradition of civilian control. Former US Marine general Jim Mattis ran the department for the first two years of the Trump administration.

Mr Austin said he was committed to involving civilian experts in crafting policy, and did not believe the extra two years out of uniform as required by law would change his perspective on issues of national security.

“I will uphold the principle of civilian control of the military, as intended,” Mr Austin said. “I would not be here, asking for your support, if I felt I was unable or unwilling to question people with whom I once served and operations I once led, or too afraid to speak my mind to you or to the president.”

After leaving the military, Mr Austin served on the board of Pentagon military weapons and technology contractor Raytheon Technologies.

Appearing before the Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, he pledged to recuse himself from decisions involving Raytheon.

“I can pledge to you that I'll be mindful not only of the legal requirements that govern my conduct, but also of the appearances to ensure that the public has no reason to question my impartiality,” he said, according to Defense One. “And I'll consult with the DoD career ethics officials on these issues and will require everyone that serves with me to ensure that public service is and will remain a public trust.”

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