Fri, 26 Feb 2021

Washington [US], January 22 (ANI): The United States House on Thursday approved a waiver to permit retired General Lloyd Austin to serve as the secretary of defence in the Biden administration.

Austin, who would be the first African American to run the department, is required to gain a waiver from a law requiring a defence secretary to wait seven years after active-duty service before taking the job.

Ahead of the vote, Austin had been reaching out to top House and Senate lawmakers who would need to agree to pass legislation to grant the waiver, something approved only twice before in history, including for James Mattis to run President Donald Trump's Pentagon in 2017.

President Joe Biden's pick for defense secretary must, in effect, have to win two votes: one from both chambers of Congress to grant the waiver and another from the Senate to confirm him for the position, and the House vote on Thursday was a first key legislative step in that process.

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted to advance a waiver and to favourably report Austin out of committee, approving both by voice vote. The next steps in that chamber will be votes on the Senate floor with timing still to be determined.

To win confirmation, Austin must overcome objections from some lawmakers to allowing a recently retired general to assume the top civilian post at the Pentagon.

He addressed those concerns directly at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday, saying, "If confirmed, I will carry out the mission of the Department of Defense, always with the goal to deter war and ensure our nation's security, and I will uphold the principle of civilian control of the military, as intended." (ANI)

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