The Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 19 will consider the nomination of retired Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, president-elect Joseph R. Biden’s pick to be his Secretary of Defense.
Because Austin retired from the Army in 2016, from the position of commander of U.S. Central Command, Congress must approve a waiver before he can become Defense Secretary, due to a law prohibiting a former military official from taking the job within seven years of leaving service. Congress approved such a waiver for James N. Mattis in 2017 to be President Donald J. Trump’s first Defense Secretary.
While many in Congress said the waiver for Mattis was a one-time event, some, including future SASC Chairman Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), have since said they would support a waiver for Austin.
If confirmed, Austin would be the first Black Defense Secretary. He served more than 40 years in the Army, and led CENTCOM when Biden was vice president.
When announcing Austin as his pick, Biden called on Congress to act quickly to confirm.
“Secretary-designate Austin is going to work tirelessly to get it back on track,” Biden said. “There is no doubt in my mind whether this nominee will honor, respect, and on a day-to-day breathe life into the preeminent principle of civilian leadership over military matters in our nation.”
Because of the timeline of confirmation and the need for a waiver, Austin would not be able to take the position on the first day of the Biden administration. The House Armed Services Committee needs to hold a hearing on the waiver, and since the House is in recess, there is no time for that to occur before inauguration, Defense News reported.