The Phoenix Flyer

New Pentagon chief has roots in Georgia

By: - January 22, 2021 2:34 pm

Lloyd James Austin III., U.S. Secretary of Defense in the Biden Administration. Credit: Wikipedia.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Friday confirmed General Lloyd J. Austin III as secretary of Defense, making the former Georgian the first African-American to serve in the post.

In a nearly unanimous vote of 93-2, the four-star general is the second member of President Joe Biden’s national security team to be confirmed by the Senate. Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Mike Lee of Utah voted against his nomination.

Austin grew up in Thomasville, Georgia, just north of the Florida line and close to Tallahassee, the state capital of Florida.

He was inducted into the Thomasville-Thomas County Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. He graduated from Thomasville High School in 1971, where he played football and basketball, before graduating from the United States Military Academy, also known as West Point, in 1975.

“Lloyd Austin is committed to civilian control of the military and is well-equipped to lead the Department of Defense as it protects us from enemies foreign and domestic, including the troubling growth of white supremacist and other extremist mindsets within our own Armed Forces,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said in a statement.

During Austin’s confirmation hearing, Kaine brought up concerns about members of the military having ties to white supremacy groups and implored the general to look into the issue.

The House and Senate on Thursday passed a waiver which allows Austin to serve as Defense secretary. A waiver is needed if the nominee for Defense secretary has been retired from active military service for fewer than seven years.

“As Secretary of Defense, he promised to empower and lift up his civilian staff, and I believe he will be an outstanding secretary of Defense for everyone at the Pentagon,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

Austin also worked under the Obama administration, where he led the U.S. Central Command.

Rep. Austin Scott, a Georgia Republican who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that he first met Austin several years ago in Iraq while visiting troops.

“I believe he would lead the Department of Defense and all our warfighters with the same poise and dedication he exercised in his four decades in the U.S. Army,” he said. “He’s a son of Thomasville, and we should all be extremely proud to see him assume the critically important role of Secretary of Defense.”

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Ariana Figueroa
Ariana Figueroa

Ariana covers the nation's capital for States Newsroom. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections and campaign finance.