Newly confirmed U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrives to begin his first day in office at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 22, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Retired Army general Lloyd Austin became the first Black defense secretary in U.S. history Friday after a Senate confirmation vote of 93-to-2.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to serve as our country’s 28th Secretary of Defense, and I’m especially proud to be the first African-American to hold the position,” Austin tweeted.  “Let’s get to work.”

The House and Senate voted to approve a waiver allowing Austin to serve despite not being out of the military for at least seven years. This makes Austin the third in history to require a congressional waiver to fill the role, with the Trump administration’s James Mattis being the most recent. “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,” stated Austin. “The safety and security of our democracy demands competent civilian control of our armed forces, the subordination of military power to the civil.” 

Austin has vowed to recuse himself from any military decisions involving Raytheon Technologies, a major U.S. defense company that Austin holds significant stock in, as well as a board seat. Austin’s pledge of a four-year recusal is twice that of the recusal period required by law. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who led the efforts to hold Austin accountable as a part of her ongoing lobbying crackdown, commended Austin for his pledge.

“Going above and beyond what federal law requires, as you are doing here, sends a powerful message that you are working on behalf of the American people, and no one else,” she stated.

As a part of his pledge, Austin will divest his shares in Raytheon, which is expected to net him between $750,000 to $1.7 million. Austin will face  the possibility of a rising extremist threat within the U.S. military. A recent report by NPR discovered that nearly one in five defendants related to the Capitol riot were military veterans.

“We can never take our hands off the wheel on this,” he stated. “This has no place in the military of the United States of America.” 

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

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Austin confirmed as first Black defense secretary – Politico – 1/22/2021
The Senate on Friday confirmed Lloyd Austin to be the new Defense secretary, making the retired Army general the first Black person to run the Pentagon. Austin’s nomination was approved in a 93-2 blowout despite concerns among Democrats and Republicans about appointing another recently retired general to lead the Defense Department.

Lloyd Austin: What to know about Biden administration’s secretary of defense – Fox News – 1/22/2021
Although many previous defense secretaries have served briefly in the military, only two before Austin — George C. Marshall and James Mattis — have been career officers. That measure passed the Senate by a 69-27 vote, but in the House – where it also passed 326-78, the members of “The Squad” and Iraq War veteran Seth Moulton were among the prominent Democrats to object.

Lloyd Austin Confirmed As Defense Secretary, Becomes 1st Black Pentagon Chief – NPR – 1/22/2021
“I think China is … our most significant challenge going forward,” Austin said Tuesday, while referring to Iran as a “destabilizing force” in the Middle East. Another challenge facing the new defense secretary are concerns of extremism within the ranks of the military. Those fears have been heightened since the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that was set into motion at the urging of Trump.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to troops: I’m ‘proud to be back on your team’ – Task & Purpose – 1/22/2021
In a memo sent to all Department of Defense employees, Austin, 67, promised members of the largest federal agency that he would ensure they had “the tools, technology, weapons, and training” to deter and defeat America’s enemies. Austin, who made history as the first Black man to serve in the top Pentagon post, joined the civilian ranks of the department roughly four years after he retired from the Army where he had served as the commander of U.S. Central Command.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

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