General Lloyd Austin, named Secretary of Defense, attends the inauguration before Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on the Western Front of the US Capitol on Wednesday, January 20, 2021.
Tom Williams | CQ Appeal, Inc. | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – The Senate confirmed Lloyd Austin as the next Pentagon chief on Friday, making him the nation’s first secretary on black defense.
The Senate voted 93-2 to ratify Austin.
The Austin affirmation follows the Senate’s affirmation on Wednesday of Avril Haines who became the first woman of the leading nation’s 18 intelligence agencies to serve as director of national intelligence.
In successive votes, the House and Senate passed a bill on Thursday that gave Austin, a retired four-star Army general, a waiver of leadership of the Pentagon. The Senate approved Austin’s waiver by 69-27 votes, and the House approved the waiver by 326 votes to 78.
Under the National Security Act of 1947, Congress prohibited anyone from serving as secretary of defense for seven years after active service. Austin left the Army in 2016, so requested a special waiver from Congress to circumvent the seven-year rule.
Former President Donald Trump’s first secretary of defense, James Mattis, a retired four-star general in the Marine Corps, also needed the same waiver from Congress.
Prior to becoming the 28th Secretary of Defense, Austin was a board member of defense giant Raytheon. Trump’s former Pentagon chiefs Mattis, Mark Esper, and incumbent Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan also had ties with defense titans General Dynamics, Raytheon and Boeing.
The 1975 graduate from West Point would be the first black leader of the Pentagon and break one of the more permanent barriers in the US government.