US Congress moves toward approving Biden's defence secretary pick

US Congress moves toward approving Biden's defence secretary pick

Austin, a West Point graduate who rose to the Army's elite ranks and marched through racial barriers in a 41-year career, won Senate confirmation Friday to become the nation's first Black secretary of defense.

U.S. Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin testifies at his confirmation hearing, in Washington, on January 19, 2021.

The quick confirmation vote comes amid a push on Capitol Hill to get President Joe Biden's national security team on the job as quickly as possible - Austin is the second member of Biden's Cabinet to be confirmed.

The Senate, which needed 60 votes to confirm the waiver, quickly followed suit, with Senators from both sides of the aisle voting to confirm 69-27.

The House of Representatives approved the waiver by 326 to 78, far more than the simple majority necessary to waive a provision of a law on civilian control of the USA military that requires a seven-year wait after retirement before active-duty military can lead the Department of Defence.

"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", Inhofe remarked.

New Commander of US Forces in Iraq Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin speaks during a change of command ceremony at Camp Victory US military base in Baghdad, Iraq, Sept 1, 2010.

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Austin arrived at the Pentagon just after noon and was greeted by David Norquist, who has been serving as acting defense secretary since Wednesday, and Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He retired after leading U.S. Central Command in war efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Biden is looking for Austin to restore stability atop the Pentagon, which went through two Senate-confirmed secretaries of defence and four who held the post on an interim basis during the Trump administration.

He told senators Tuesday that his primary concerns included ensuring the military provided a robust deterrent to China, as the United States works to check its growing power in east Asia and ambitions worldwide.

I believe he can increase transparency and tackle extremism within the ranks.

"We woke up one day and discovered that we had extremist elements in our ranks and they did bad things", Austin said, without providing details.

"The job of the Department of Defense is to keep America safe from our enemies".

"This is something I think we have to be active on, and we have to lean into it and make sure that we're doing the right things to create the right climate".

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