The Latest: Austin reveres idea of civilian military control

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Retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the Biden administrations choice to be secretary of defense, speaks at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON – The Latest on President-elect Joe Biden (all times local):

2:15 p.m.

Lloyd Austin, the retired Army general whom President-elect Joe Biden picked to be secretary of defense, says he reveres the principle of civilian control of the military.

Austin was speaking after Biden introduced him Wednesday as his nominee. Biden urged Congress to waive a legal requirement that a secretary of defense be out of military service at least seven years before taking office. Austin retired four years ago after 41 years in the Army.

Austin says he understands the need for civilian control of the military and sees himself as a civilian, not as a general.

He said that if confirmed by the Senate, he will surround himself in the Pentagon with civilian officials and advisers to ensure accountability.



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2:10 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Defense Department says he’s aware of the historical moment that would come with his confirmation.

Retired four-star Army general Lloyd J. Austin said Wednesday in Wilmington, Delaware, that a man from his own hometown of Thomasville, Georgia, became the first Black graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Austin, who would be the first Black leader of the Pentagon if confirmed by the Senate, said that man and others, including the Tuskegee Airmen and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, “paved the way for me and countless others” to be part of the U.S. military.

Austin would need a congressional waiver to hold the position since he’s been out of the military less than the seven years required by law.


2:05 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden says he is asking Congress for a waiver to allow for the confirmation of retired four-star Army general Lloyd J. Austin as secretary of defense because the moment calls for it.

Biden said Wednesday in Wilmington, Delaware, that he “would not be asking for this exemption if I did not believe this moment in our history didn’t call for it. It does call for it.”

If confirmed by the Senate, Austin would be the first Black leader of the Pentagon and would need to obtain a congressional waiver to serve as defense secretary. Congress intended civilian control of the military when it created the position of secretary of defense in 1947 and prohibited a recently retired military officer from holding the position. Austin retired in 2016.

Biden said there is “no doubt” in his mind that Austin will “honor, respect and on a day-to-day basis breathe life into the preeminent principle of civilian leadership over military matters in our nation.”