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US Defense Secretary Nominee Pledges to Maintain Civilian Control of the Military

Retired General Lloyd Austin is potentially the first African American to head the Department.

US Defense Secretary nominee Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin assured the public in a speech during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to uphold the principle of “civilian control of the military” if confirmed to the position.

As potentially the first African American to head the Department, the retired general needs a waiver from Congress to bypass the National Security Act of 1947, a law that requires the Secretary of Defense to wait seven years from active-duty service before taking the position. The Defense Secretary pick left the army only four years ago.

“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,” Austin said.

During the hearing, Austin promised to address the issues of “racists and extremists” in the Department.

“The job of the Department of Defense is to keep America safe from our enemies,” he said. “But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks.”

Hurdles to Overcome

To finalize the confirmation, Austin will have to win a vote from the chambers of Congress to be granted the waiver and another vote from the Senate to finalize the confirmation. The House is expected to vote on Thursday, January 21.

In December last year, President-elect Joe Biden officially announced Lloyd Austin as his defense secretary nominee. The retired general’s selection sparked controversies related to his business ties, particularly to Pine Island Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company.

In an article in The Atlantic, Biden defended Austin’s nomination and argued that under the retired general, the Department of Defense “will never fail to advance the security of the American people.”

“We need empowered civilians working with military leaders to shape DoD’s policies and ensure that our defense policies are accountable to the American people,” Biden wrote.

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