As of Friday, the senate has confirmed retired army general Lloyd Austin as the United States’ Secretary of Defense. This marks Austin as the nation’s first black Secretary of Defense. In this position, Austin will head up the Pentagon.
Biden’s nomination of Austin for this position was approved by the senate with a 93-2 vote on Friday, according to NPR. Austin tweeted Friday morning following the vote as he stepped into the role of Secretary of Defense.
“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. Let’s get to work,” Austin tweeted.
As the vote for Austin to take this role was almost unanimous, NPR wrote that the two votes against Austin were from Josh Hawley, R-Mo, and Mike Lee, R-Utah.
In order for Austin’s appointment to Secretary of Defense, NPR reported, both the House and the Senate had to first approve a waiver because Austin has not been out of uniform for the specified seven years required under the National Security Act of 1947. According to NPR, this factor raised concerns from both political sides. Austin is now the third Secretary of Defense to have taken this role following approval of this waiver. Austin joins George Marshall nominated by President Harry Truman in 1950 and Jim Mattis, former Secretary of Defense for former President Donald Trump in 2017.
Looking forward, according to NPR, Austin stated that China is the nation’s “most significant challenge going forward.” They reported that this raised some questions in lawmakers.
Austin has dedicated more than 40 years to the United States Army and is a retired four-star general. In this time, he also headed the U.S. Central Command as the first black general to attain this position, which is the military’s top command post that oversees U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, according to NPR.
NPR reported that Austin graduated in 1975 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a commission in the Infantry. He was originally born in Mobile, Alabama but grew up in Thomasville, Georgia.