Secretary of Defense – Lloyd James Austin

On December 8th, 2020, Joe Biden, the president-elect, announced Lloyd Austin III, a 4 – time general, as his candidate for the Secretary of Defense. Many people are pleased because, for the first time in history, a black man would be the defense secretary. This seems to be an astute and timely choice from Biden, considering the recent racial tension enveloping the nation.

What else qualifies Lloyd James Austin III for this position? Here’s what you need to know about Lloyd James Austin III.

Lloyd James Austin

Lloyd is a 4- star retired army general who is well known for serving as the 12th commander of United States Central Command (CENTCOM) on the recommendation of Obama. In his 41 years of active service, Lloyd has distinguished himself as a fine serviceman dedicated to protecting and preserving the democracy of the United States.

Lloyd’s extensive and well-accomplished career is a major endorsement of his abilities to do the job excellently. However, despite this endorsement, the Senate, the people and Common Defense Veterans have expressed their concerns.

What stands as Lloyd’s strongest point is also his weakest. Lloyd is perfect on paper with only one flaw – he’s still considered a military man, and the Defense Secretary’s position must lie in the hands of a civilian.

This is because the military is too powerful an entity not to be controlled by someone outside its rank. This requirement only seeks to protect the government from an overthrow by a powerful military designated to serve it.

Although Lloyd retired in 2016, the stipulations for ex-military personnel to be in this position are seven years of civilian life post-military. Unfortunately, Lloyd only has 4. This means that he requires a Congress-granted waiver for his position to be confirmed.

This poses a big problem for Lloyd’s nomination and Biden’s hope to put the first Black man in the seat of the Defense Secretary. Congress could grant Lloyd a waiver, but strong arguments from Senate Democrats against this point out the colossal failure such an action has been in the past.

In the history of the United States, two men have been granted a waiver, and both turned out to be terrible decisions in hindsight. What’s to say that Lloyd’s case won’t be the same?

No one wants a repetition of the Gen. Jim Mattis fiasco of 2017. Biden asked the Senate Democrats to consider Lloyd as he is the “right man at the right time.” However, many are worried to aid a mistake so soon after doing the same for Jim Mattis of Trump’s administration.

Lloyd understands the situation and pledges to approach “this new role as a civilian leader, with military experience to be sure, but also with a deep appreciation and reverence for the prevailing wisdom of civilian control of our military.”

“I recognize that being a member of the president’s Cabinet requires a different perspective and unique responsibility from a career in uniform.” 

Some members of Congress have been vocal about where they stand. Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking Democrat, believes in giving Lloyd a chance to prove himself. Sen. Jack Reed vocally expressed his reluctance to grant another waiver after Jim Mattis explained his new position saying, “I feel, in all fairness, you have to give the opportunity to the nominee to explain himself or herself.”

The Congress would be holding a meeting to decide for or against making Lloyd the third man to be granted this waiver in the United States history. If Lloyd is granted this waiver after the confirmatory hearing on January 19th, he’ll be taking his position on Biden’s cabinet on January 20th.