Senate confirms Austin, former 10th Mountain commander, as Secretary of Defense

Senate confirms Austin, former 10th Mountain commander, as Secretary of Defense
Secretary of Defense nominee Lloyd Austin, a recently retired Army general, speaks during his conformation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Washington. (Source: Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWNY) - The Senate voted Friday morning to confirm former 10th Mountain Division commander, retired General Lloyd Austin, as Secretary of Defense.

Despite concerns in the weeks leading up to Friday’s vote about Austin’s close ties to the military, the vote was near unanimous, 93-2.

Before Austin could be confirmed by the Senate, both the Senate and House of Representatives had to agree to waive a long-standing rule which requires any Secretary of Defense to be retired from the military for at least seven years.

Austin retired in 2016.

The rule exists to ensure civilian control over the military, with the Secretary of Defense serving as a check on the military commanders at the Pentagon.

In the run up to his confirmation vote, Austin has worked to overcome objections from some lawmakers to allowing a recently retired general to assume the top civilian post at the Pentagon, CNN reported.

Former president Trump sought - and won - a waiver to allow James Mattis to serve as his Secretary of Defense.

“I understand and respect the reservations some of you have expressed about having another recently retired general at the head of the Department of Defense,” Austin said at his confirmation hearing. “The safety and security of our democracy demands competent civilian control of our armed forces, the subordination of military power to the civil.”

Austin, who was stationed at Fort Drum between 2003 and 2005, makes history as the first African American to run the department.

Friday morning’s vote marks the second Cabinet nominee from President Joe Biden to win approval - Wednesday night, the Senate approved Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence.

- Additional reporting by CNN

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