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Austin confirmed as nation’s first African American defense secretary DinarDailyUpdates?bg=330099&fg=FFFFFF&anim=1

Austin confirmed as nation’s first African American defense secretary

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Austin confirmed as nation’s first African American defense secretary Empty Austin confirmed as nation’s first African American defense secretary

Post by claud39 Fri Jan 22, 2021 7:21 pm

[size=46]Austin confirmed as nation’s first African American defense secretary[/size]

Jan. 22, 2021 

Austin confirmed as nation’s first African American defense secretary B5OMBOC42YI6XC6PHB3YOHEBTU

Jan. 22, 2021 at 3:20 pm EST

Retired four-star Army general Lloyd Austin became the first African American defense secretary on Friday, shattering a racial barrier for the U.S. armed forces and underscoring President Biden’s commitment to diversity within his Cabinet.

The Senate confirmed Austin, 67, in a 93-to-2 vote, giving the incoming Pentagon boss a near-unanimous bipartisan congressional mandate as he sets about overseeing the 2.9 million service members and civilians around the world who fall under the umbrella of the Defense Department.

For Austin to be confirmed, the House and Senate first had to pass a waiver exempting him from a law that requires defense secretaries to be out of uniform for seven years before occupying the top civilian post at the Pentagon. Austin retired in 2016; Congress granted him the waiver Thursday.

“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 said in a statement on Twitter after his confirmation. “Let’s get to work.”

Austin’s confirmation caps a career in which the Thomasville, Ga., native and U.S. Military Academy graduate has notched a number of firsts, becoming the first African American to command an infantry division in combat and the first African American to lead U.S. Central Command, the unit of the U.S. military responsible for operations in the Middle East.

An African American first ascended to the uniformed military’s top post in 1989, when Colin Powell became the 12th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It would take more than 31 years for an African American to be chosen as the Pentagon’s top civilian leader, a lag that Austin described as troublesome in video comments before his confirmation.

“It’s hard to believe, but it’s true,” Austin said. “There is kind of a sad commentary here, and that is, it shouldn’t have taken us this long to get here. There should have been someone that preceded me.”
Many former national security officials in Washington had been expecting Biden to break a different barrier in his defense secretary nomination by choosing Michèle Flournoy, a former Pentagon policy chief, to be the first woman to hold the post. But Biden developed a personal relationship with Austin while the general commanded U.S. forces in Iraq during the Obama administration. Biden’s late son, Beau, also served on Austin’s staff while deployed to Iraq.

Biden signed the law granting Austin an exclusion Friday and described his defense secretary’s confirmation as historic in a message on Twitter. “I look forward to working with him to lead our military, revitalize our alliances, and ensure the safety of the American people,” Biden said, describing Austin as the right person to lead the Defense Department at this moment.

Austin arrived at the Pentagon for his first day of work midday Friday after the confirmation vote and, after being sworn in, received an intelligence briefing from department leaders. He then met with David Norquist, the deputy defense secretary, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Mark A. Milley. He chaired a coronavirus briefing attended by Norquist, Milley and other top Pentagon leaders and planned to speak by phone with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg before receiving operational briefings about China and the Middle East later in the day.

In an email message to the force, sent upon arriving at the Pentagon, Austin said his job is to make U.S. service members more effective at their jobs.

“That means ensuring you have the tools, technology, weapons, and training to deter and defeat our enemies,” he said. “It means establishing sound policy and strategy and assigning you clear missions. It means putting a premium on cooperation with our allies and partners. And it means living up to our core values, the same ones our fellow citizens expect of us.”

Austin has made it clear that his first priority as defense secretary is to bring all of the Pentagon’s resources to bear on the administration’s effort to combat the coronavirus and speed up the distribution and delivery of vaccine.

In his message to the force, Austin said the military can expect to continue aiding the nation’s health-care professionals in the fight to end the pandemic.

“But we must help the Federal Government move further and faster to eradicate the devastating effects of the coronavirus,” Austin wrote. “To that end, we will also do everything we can to vaccinate and care for our workforce and to look for meaningful ways to alleviate the pressure this pandemic has exerted on you and your families.”

Austin faces the challenge of restoring critical military alliances that President Donald Trump strained while in office, despite the best efforts of his Pentagon leaders to nurture the decades-old bonds with nations in Europe and Asia.

Austin also will need to chart a course for the future of the U.S. military and the nation’s $750 billion national defense budget as China develops increasingly sophisticated technology and threatens to eclipse the might of an American force that has held undisputed dominance for decades.

During his confirmation hearing Tuesday, Austin pledged to root out any extremism in the force after a number of people arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol turned out to be veterans or to have military links.

Austin also said he would respect the tenet of civilian control over the U.S. military enshrined in the Constitution, by surrounding himself with civilian appointees and including them in critical decisions, rather than relying on uniformed service members or a cadre of retired officers.

Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were the lawmakers in the chamber to vote against Austin’s nomination Friday.

A far larger contingent of senators, however, voted against giving Austin a waiver, citing concerns about eroding the tenet of civilian control over the military. Austin is the second defense secretary in just over four years to receive a waiver, after Trump’s first appointee to the position, retired Marine Corps general Jim Mattis, was granted an exception to the law.

On Thursday, the House approved Austin’s waiver first, with a vote of 326 to 78. The Senate followed suit about an hour later, backing the waiver by a vote of 69 to 27.

Before the confirmations of Austin and Mattis, only one individual had ever received such a waiver: George C. Marshall Jr., who was granted an exception by Congress to serve as Harry S. Truman’s defense secretary from 1950 to 1951.

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