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Senate confirms retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary

Retired General Lloyd Austin was approved by the Senate on Friday as defense secretary, and he will become the first Black chief at the Pentagon. Pool Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI
Retired General Lloyd Austin was approved by the Senate on Friday as defense secretary, and he will become the first Black chief at the Pentagon. Pool Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI
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Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Lloyd J. Austin III was confirmed by the Senate as defense secretary on Friday, allowing the retired general to become the first Black Pentagon chief.

The floor vote of 93 to 2 came after the Senate and the House waived a rule keeping retired military personnel from the position for at least seven years, a provision intended to reinforce civilian control of the military.

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Austin retired from the military, after 41 years, in 2016 as a four-star Army general.

James Mattis, former president Donald Trump's first defense secretary, received a similar waiver in 2017.

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The quick and overwhelming vote favoring Austin was an indication of bipartisan consensus in the Senate that President Joe Biden's choice of defense secretary required immediate installation.

Austin was commander of U.S. Central Command, regarded as the U.S. military's foremost combat command with responsibilities across the Middle East, from 2013 to 2016.

Austin's nomination moved to the Senate from the Senate armed services committee on Wednesday.

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Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the panel's ranking Democrat, said in a statement at the time that "I will support his historic nomination and believe he will restore direction to a Pentagon that has been left rudderless and adrift for too long under the previous administration.

"His character and integrity are unquestioned and he possesses the knowledge and skill to effectively lead the Pentagon," Reed said.

The Defense Department, and its leadership in the cabinet-level defense secretary, was established by President Harry Truman in 1947. Within one year the desegregation of the U.S. military was ordered.

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki (L) looks on as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Fudge, the first Black woman to lead the department in decades, speaks at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

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