Know a Nominee: Lloyd Austin to Be Secretary of Defense
Do you support or oppose Austin’s nomination?
by Causes | 1.22.21
- The Senate voted 93-2 on Friday to confirm retired General Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense.
- The Senate is expected to vote Friday morning on the nomination of retired General Lloyd Austin to be Secretary of Defense. Here’s what you need to know about the nominee.
Who is Lloyd Austin?
- Austin, 67, is a retired four star general who served in the U.S. Army from 1975-2016. Austin joined the Army after graduating from West Point in 1975, served in infantry and airborne units during his career, and earned master’s degrees in counselor education and business management in addition to graduating from the Army War College.
- Austin was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division when it invaded Iraq in March 2003 and commanded the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan from September 2003 until August 2005. He later became the commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq during the 2010-2011 drawdown and served as the leader of Central Command from 2013 until his retirement in 2016.
- Following his retirement, Austin has served on the board of directors of defense contractor Raytheon Technologies, Tenet Healthcare Corporation, and Nucor Corporation (a large U.S. steel producer).
What’s the outlook for his nomination?
- Because Austin only retired from active duty in 2016, he falls within the seven-year “cooling off” period that precludes retired military officers from serving as secretary of defense without a waiver from Congress.
- The policy exists to enhance civilian control of the military by deterring nominations of recently retired military officials, and Austin would be only the third nominee to receive a congressional waiver since the policy was implemented in 1947.
- Congress enacted the first waiver of this policy in 1950 for General George Marshall (at which point it was a 10-year period), while the second was approved for General James Mattis in 2017. The waiver for Mattis was approved with bipartisan support on votes of 268-151 in the House and 81-17 in the Senate before he was confirmed on a 98-1 vote.
- There was some bipartisan opposition to granting Austin's waiver, although it still passed both chambers easily. The House passed the waiver for Austin on a vote of 326-78 on January 21st, while the Senate followed suit the same day with a vote of 69-27.
- Austin has faced criticism over his handling of the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria as leader of Central Command, pointing to an article in The Atlantic from 2016 which stated Austin told the Obama White House that ISIS was “a flash in the pan” ― which prompted President Barack Obama’s comment about ISIS being the “jayvee team” of terrorism.
- Austin disputes those comments and denies considering ISIS “a flash in the pan”. A congressional panel found that CENTCOM tried to downplay the rise of ISIS and provided assessments that were more positive than actual events on the ground, sparking bipartisan criticism.
What does it mean for the Dept. of Defense?
- If confirmed, Austin would be the first African American to lead the Dept. of Defense, and he would be the third secretary to receive a waiver from Congress in order to serve.
- The Dept. of Defense (DOD) coordinates and supervises the national security activities of the U.S. Armed Forces. It is the world’s largest employer, with over 1.3 million active duty servicemembers, 800,000 members of the National Guard and military reserve, and more than 700,000 civilians working for the DOD.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: DVIDSHUB via Flickr / Creative Commons)
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