- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday advanced the nomination of retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as President Biden’s secretary of defense.

The powerful defense panel also moved to approve a waiver that Mr. Austin is required to obtain to serve as defense secretary due to a rule that requires active duty service members to wait seven years before serving in the top civilian post.

In a statement, the committee said that the Senate will not hold a vote to confirm Mr. Austin until the panel reviews additional responses the four-star general submitted following his nomination hearing on Tuesday.

Mr. Austin has been received favorably among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and is expected to be confirmed following a Senate vote. If confirmed, Mr. Austin would make history as the first Black secretary of defense.

“Given the unique challenges we face, it is imperative to have a confirmed Secretary of Defense in place as soon as possible,” incoming committee Chairman Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, said in a statement Thursday.

“The Senate must work together to protect the American people,” the newly minted chairman continued. “There is an urgent and widely recognized need to move forward with getting a new national security team in place.”

“After this week’s nomination hearing, I am very confident that Lloyd Austin will be a strong, capable civilian leader for the Pentagon at this critical time,” the panel’s top Republican, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, said in a statement.

“I’m grateful for his commitment to strong civil-military relations and appreciate that he will focus intently on the serious threats facing our nation right now — especially China and Russia. I’ve always said it’s critical to have Senate-confirmed leadership in place at the Pentagon, and I look forward to voting with the full Senate to confirm Austin as soon as we can.”

Mr. Austin served in the military for 40 years before retiring in 2016.

A former head of U.S. Central Command in the Middle East, Mr. Austin said during his nomination hearing that he would like to see America’s military operations in Afghanistan come to an end with a negotiated settlement with the Taliban.

“We’re going to make every effort that we can to ensure that happens. This conflict needs to come to an end,” he said.

When asked about his ability to separate his decades of military experience with the civilian role, Mr. Austin told the committee, “I understand and respect the reservations that some of you have expressed about having another recently retired general at the head of the Department of Defense.

“The safety and security of our democracy demands competent civilian control of our armed forces, the subordination of military power to the civil.”

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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