President Joe Biden's nominee for Secretary of Defense, retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, is now the first Black secretary of Defense, confirmed Friday morning by the Senate.
Austin was confirmed by a vote of 93 to 2 in the Senate to be the next Defense secretary. The two Republican senators who voted against Austin’s confirmation were Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley.
The retired Army general is a 1975 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, served in 2012 as the first Black vice chief of staff of the Army, and a year later took leadership of Central Command, where he fashioned and began implementing a strategy for rolling back the Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. Austin is one of the few secretaries of Defense to rise to the rank of four-star -- the other recent such secretary being James Mattis.
Austin's confirmation was swift and largely void of obstacles despite his retiring within the last seven years. Defense secretaries must be more than seven years removed from the military in order to protect the mandate of civilian leadership of the military. Congress approved a waiver for Austin this week.
During confirmation hearings, in order to assuage concerns over his recent retirement, Austin emphasized that he would surround himself with qualified civilians and include them in policy decisions.
"It’s an honor 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," Austin tweeted shortly after his confirmation. "Let’s get to work."
Austin takes the reigns from Acting Secretary of Defense David Norquist who was briefly appointed during the last stages of Austin's confirmation.
Reach Elizabeth Howe @ECBHowe.