WASHINGTON – President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr., on Wednesday hailed the selection of Lloyd J Austin III, secretary of defense, as “a leader of extraordinary courage, personality, experience, and accomplishment,” and asked Congress to grant the waiver. A retired four-star general needs a law that bars officers who have been on active duty recently from serving in the Pentagon’s highest office.
“He is loved by men and women in the armed forces, feared by our opponents, and known and respected by our allies,” Biden said at an event in Wilmington, Dell. He shares my firm belief in the values of America’s alliances.
Mr. Biden said placing the Pentagon under the command of a general who oversaw US military operations in Iraq and the greater Middle East would prevent the United States from war, and would not increase its likelihood.
“We need to know first-hand the prohibitive cost of war, and the burden it places on our service members and their families, to help end eternal wars and make sure that the use of force is the last tool in our toolbox,” Mr. Biden said. “Not the first.”
High above the podium, which is 6 feet 4 inches, General Austin stressed in his remarks that he would work closely with US diplomats and allied countries. He said, “America is at its strongest when it works with its allies.”
He said that he and Mr. Biden “got to know each other under some severe attitudes and intense pressure,” and pledged to give Mr. Biden the “same direct and incarnate advisor” he had during the Obama administration, when he oversaw the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq and then the military campaign against the Islamic State.
Mr. Biden recalled a meeting at the residence of the US ambassador to Iraq that General Austin attended when the building was attacked by a missile by the insurgents.
“Of course, General Austin, it was just another day in the office.” Mr. Biden said, “He sat there and kept moving forward. “He’s cool under fire, inspiring the same to everyone around him.”
One of those people, Biden said, was his son, Beau Biden, who worked as a military attorney on the Austin crew in Iraq.
General Austin the Younger called Mr. Biden, Who passed away in 2015“A very special person, a true patriot, and a good friend of everyone who knew him,” adding that the two men kept in touch after Beau Biden returned home.
If confirmed, General Austin would become the first black Secretary of Defense, a landmark breakthrough he acknowledged in notes that summoned black service members from Buffalo Soldiers in the Civil War to Tuskegee Airmen in WWII to Montford Point Marines, as the first known black men to serve in infantry. Navy after camp in North Carolina where they were trained. “Lots of people paved the way for me,” he said.
Mr. Biden said General Austin was the right commander at a time when more than 40 percent of the forces operating in America were people of color. “It has been a long time for the ministry’s leadership to reflect this diversity,” he said.
For this to be confirmed, General Austin would need to win a Congressional exemption from the 1947 Act requiring veterans to retire from active duty for at least seven years before leading the Department of Defense. General Austin retired from the Army in April 2016.
Civilian control over the military was a national priority Since the founding of the country, Choosing General Austin She drew some immediate opposition on Capitol Hill To break traditions.
But a House of Congress vote could nullify that requirement, as it has twice before – most recently in early 2017, after President Trump nominated recently retired Marine General Jim Mattis as his secretary of defense.
There is a good reason for this law that I fully understand and respect. I wouldn’t ask for that exclusion if I didn’t think this moment in our history didn’t call for it, ”Mr. Biden said.“ Just as they did with Jim Mattis, I ask Congress to grant a waiver. ”
Mr. Biden’s team has already begun pitching its case to lawmakers, as Democratic leaders have voiced their strong support for the nomination, and they believe that General Austin has good prospects.
“Lloyd Austin has served our nation for more than four decades, and his willingness to serve his country again is impressive,” Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat and minority leader, said in front of the House on Wednesday. “He will be an excellent defense minister.”
On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her support for General Austin V. Declaration That did not address his recent retirement.
Some lawmakers acknowledged that it was difficult to justify opposition to the abdication of General Austin after Congress approved a abdication to Mattis.
“I’m fundamentally opposed to the waivers,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, Democratic Representative of California on the House Armed Services Committee. “But I don’t see how we can give it to Mattis and then turn around after a few years and deny it to one of the most qualified African American leaders ever to serve our nation.”
But many Democrats were still upset.
“As Democrats, we’ve just spent four years watching for violations of these kinds of rules,” said Representative Tom Malinowski, a Democrat from New Jersey and a former State Department official. “I really feel as if compromising will turn an exception into a rule.”
He added that he has not decided how he will vote when the question is asked to the House of Representatives.
The Democratic chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Adam Smith, said in a statement on Tuesday that he was confident General Austin “will be an excellent defense secretary.” But he said he was “concerned” about his recent military service and that General Austin should meet with members of Congress to demonstrate his commitment to civilian control of the Pentagon.
General Austin sought to assuage these concerns on Wednesday. “I have come into this new role as a civilian leader – with military experience of course – but also with a deep appreciation and reverence for the prevailing wisdom of civilian control of our military,” he said.
General Austen’s planned nomination won significant endorsement Wednesday from two prominent national security figures who have served in both Republican and Democratic administrations.
In a statement, Robert M. Gates, a former defense secretary under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, described General Austin as “a person of unwavering integrity, independent of thought and conscience, with a steady hand.” And Colin Powell, the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the first black secretary of state, He said in a statement on his Facebook page That he was a mentor to General Austin, and he urged Congress to approve a waiver allowing the general to serve.
Mr. Powell said that General Austin “has demonstrated his combat skills and his bureaucratic, diplomatic and political acumen.”
Luke BroadwaterAnd the Emily Cochran And the Nicholas Fandus Contribute to reporting.