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article imageGen. Lloyd Austin is nation's first Black Secretary of Defense

By Karen Graham     Jan 22, 2021 in Politics
Washington - The Senate confirmed retired General Lloyd J. Austin as the Secretary of Defense Friday, putting the first Black American in charge of the Pentagon by a vote of 93-2.
The new secretary of defense, a West Point graduate, had an illustrious career spanning 41 years, that included commanding U.S. forces in the Middle East, working with then Vice-President Biden on a U.S. troop drawdown in Iraq in 2010 and 2011, when Austin was a commander in Baghdad and recommended that President Obama keep as many as 24,000 troops in Iraq. The White House, including Biden, opposed the plan.
Austin also worked with Biden’s late son, Beau, who served on the general’s staff in Iraq, attended Mass with him, and stayed in touch following their deployments, before Beau Biden died of a brain tumor in 2015 — an important bond with Biden, according to the Los Angeles Times.
On Thursday, the House and the Senate approved a waiver on the legal prohibition of a military officer serving as secretary of defense within seven years of retirement. The law was enacted in July 1947 and signed by President Harry Truman. Austin is only the third general to be given a waiver to serve as defense secretary.
The Congress has given waivers twice before - in 1950 for George C. Marshall during the Korean War and in 2017 for Jim Mattis, the retired Marine general who served as President Donald Trump’s first Pentagon chief.
In December, when Biden first announced his choice of Austin to head up the Defense Department, he said that he considered him “the person we need at this moment,” and that he trusted Austin to ensure civilian control of the military. And Austin promised the Senate during his hearing that he would "surround himself with qualified civilians."
Nominated by 
@POTUS
 and voted on by the Senate  Lloyd J. Austin III has become the 28th confirme...
Nominated by @POTUS and voted on by the Senate, Lloyd J. Austin III has become the 28th confirmed Defense Secretary and will lead the dedicated men and women of the U.S. armed forces.
Department of Defense
Austin also assured the Senators he was fully behind Biden's early focus on combatting the coronavirus pandemic. "I will quickly review the department’s contributions to coronavirus relief efforts, ensuring we are doing everything we can — and then some — to help distribute vaccines across the country and to vaccinate our troops and preserve readiness,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
He also pledged to address white supremacy and violent extremism in the ranks of the military, something that was overlooked by the previous administration. Austin promised to “rid our ranks of racists,” and said he takes the problem personally.
“The Defense Department’s job is to keep America safe from our enemies,” he said. “But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks.” He added that he will make sure that the leaders of every military service know that extremist behavior in their ranks is unacceptable.
“This is not something we can be passive on,” he said. “This is something I think we have to be active on, and we have to lean into it and make sure that we’re doing the right things to create the right climate.”
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