Today, I ask Lloyd Austin to once more take on a mission for the United States of America—this time as the secretary-designate of the Department of Defense. I know he will do an outstanding job.
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In his more than 40 years in the United States Army, Austin met every challenge with extraordinary skill and profound personal decency. He is a true and tested soldier and leader. I’ve spent countless hours with him, in the field and in the White House Situation Room. I’ve sought his advice, seen his command, and admired his calm and his character. He is the definition of a patriot. He rose through the Army’s ranks during his distinguished and trailblazing career. He was the 200th person ever to attain the rank of an Army four-star general, but only the sixth African American. He built a career grounded in service to this country and challenged the institution that he loves to grow more inclusive and more diverse at every step.
He was the first African American general officer to lead an Army corps in combat and the first African American to command an entire theater of war; if confirmed, he will be the first African American to helm the Defense Department—another milestone in a barrier-breaking career dedicated to keeping the American people secure.
Lloyd Austin retired from military service more than four years ago. The law states that an officer must have left the service at least seven years before becoming secretary of defense. But I hope that Congress will grant a waiver to Secretary-designate Austin, just as Congress did for Secretary Jim Mattis. Given the immense and urgent threats and challenges our nation faces, he should be confirmed swiftly.
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The fact is, Austin’s many strengths and his intimate knowledge of the Department of Defense and our government are uniquely matched to the challenges and crises we face. He is the person we need in this moment.
The next secretary of defense will need to immediately quarterback an enormous logistics operation to help distribute COVID-19 vaccines widely and equitably. Austin oversaw the largest logistical operation undertaken by the Army in six decades—the Iraq drawdown.
The next secretary of defense will need to ensure the well-being and resilience of our service members and their families, strained by almost two decades of war. Austin knows the incredible cost of war and the commingled pride and pain that live in the hearts of those families that pay it.
And the next secretary of defense will have to make sure that our armed forces reflect and promote the full diversity of our nation. Austin will bring to the job not only his personal experience, but the stories of the countless young people he has mentored. If confirmed, he will ensure that every member of the armed forces is treated with dignity and respect, including Black, Latino, Asian American, Native American, women, and LGBTQ service members.