A day after Congress passed a waiver to allow the retired four-star general to lead the Pentagon, the Senate confirmed Lloyd Austin as the first black secretary of Defense.
The vote was 93-2, with Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) voting against Austin. The waiver of the limitation against the appointment of persons as secretary of Defense within seven years of relief from active duty was approved 69-27 by the Senate on Thursday.
“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.”
Austin was the 12th Commander of the U.S. Central Command, retiring as a four-star general in 2016 after more than 40 years of military service. As Combined Forces Commander, General Austin led the design and execution of the military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. As commanding general of United States Forces – Iraq, he was responsible for the Army’s largest logistical effort in more than 60 years when he oversaw the transition of U.S. and Coalition military forces and equipment out of Iraq.
At the Pentagon, General Austin has served as Chief of the Joint Operations, J-3, Joint Staff, and as Director of the Joint Staff. He has commanded troops in combat at each of the one-, two-, three-, and four-star levels, and became the 200th person in history to ascend to the Army’s top rank of four-star general — the sixth African American to do so — in 2010. In addition, he was the first African American general officer to command a U.S. Army Division in combat, to lead a Corps in combat, to command an entire theater of war, to serve as Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, and to serve as Commander of U.S. Central Command. His awards include the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, three Distinguished Service Medals, and five Defense Distinguished Service Medals.
Born in Alabama and raised in Georgia, General Austin received his bachelor of science degree from West Point, his masters in education from Auburn University, and his masters in business administration from Webster University.