US Senate confirms appointment of first Black Pentagon chief

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Lloyd J. Austin 3rd was confirmed by the Senate as defense secretary on Friday, allowing the retired general to become the first Black Pentagon chief.

The floor vote of 93 to 2 came after the Senate and the House waived a rule keeping retired military personnel from the position for at least seven years, a provision intended to reinforce civilian control of the military.

Austin retired from the military, after 41 years, in 2016 as a four-star Army general.

The quick and overwhelming vote favoring Austin was an indication of bipartisan consensus in the Senate that President Joe Biden’s choice of defense secretary required immediate installation.

Austin was commander of US Central Command, regarded as the US military’s foremost combat command with responsibilities across the Middle East, from 2013 to 2016.

Austin’s nomination moved to the Senate from the Senate armed services committee on Wednesday.

Sen. Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, the panel’s ranking Democrat, said in a statement at the time that “I will support his historic nomination and believe he will restore direction to a Pentagon that has been left rudderless and adrift for too long under the previous administration.

“His character and integrity are unquestioned and he possesses the knowledge and skill to effectively lead the Pentagon,” Reed said.

The Defense Department, and its leadership in the cabinet-level defense secretary, was established by President Harry Truman in 1947. Within one year the desegregation of the US military was ordered.

 

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