U.S. Army General Lloyd J. Austin (Ret.) on Thursday was granted a waiver through votes by both chambers of Congress, allowing him to be confirmed as the next secretary of the Department of Defense.
The waiver for Austin, who retired from active duty in 2016, was required because federal law mandates that the Secretary of Defense either be a civilian or someone who has been retired from the military for seven or more years.
The House of Representatives bipartisanly voted 326-78 to grant the waiver; the Senate shortly thereafter voted 69-27 to do the same. All members of Alabama’s congressional delegation voted in favor of the waiver for Austin, who is a native of Mobile.
He also currently serves on the Auburn University board of trustees.
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) on Thursday morning had led a letter joined by fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus urging her colleagues to support the waiver.
“I proudly support granting a waiver for Mobile, Alabama native and retired Four-Star General Lloyd Austin to serve as first Black Secretary of Defense,” Sewell said in a statement. “General Austin has an exemplary 41-year career of service and his battle-proven leadership and independence demonstrate he is the right choice to lead the Pentagon during these difficult times. We face many challenges as a nation, not least among them a historic pandemic that has disproportionately impacted communities of color and an unprecedented rise of white supremacist and far right-wing domestic terrorist groups. I’m confident in General Austin’s commitment and ability to course-correct and secure our nation from threats at home and abroad.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (AL-03), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, also voiced his support for Austin, while raising process concerns. Rogers made his thoughts clear in remarks on the floor.
“I believe General Austin understands the threats we face,” the East Alabama congressman said, in part. “I believe he respects the principle of civilian control. I believe he will stand up to the efforts of many in the Democrat majority who seek to slash defense funding and rewrite our defense strategy.”
After a nearly 41-year decorated military career, Austin retired as a four-star general. Some of his former posts include service as the commander of U.S. Central Command, commander of the Combined Forces in Iraq and Syria, and as the 33rd vice chief of staff of the Army.
Austin is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and holds master’s degrees from Auburn and Webster University. He has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Auburn, and his wife, Charlene, is also an Auburn graduate.
Additionally, the retired general currently serves on the board of directors for Raytheon Technologies and Nucor, both of which have significant Alabama presences.
He would be the first Black DoD secretary in American history. The Senate is expected to confirm him on Friday morning.
This comes after President Joe Biden last month announced his intent to nominate Austin to the important post.
U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl (AL-01), who represents Austin’s hometown, released a statement in support of the nominee on Thursday.
“Today I voted yes on the waiver for the Secretary of Defense Appointment of General Austin, even though I am frustrated with the House Democrats’ deeply flawed process. I believe General Austin is well-qualified to serve as our nation’s Secretary of Defense, and I am optimistic that he will push back against far-left attempts to cut military funding and weaken our nation’s defenses,” said Carl.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn