Lloyd Austin, a retired four-star Army general, has been confirmed by the Senate, making him the first Black defense secretary in U.S. history.
The Senate approved President Biden’s nomination for Pentagon chief in a near-unanimous 93-2 vote on Friday.
“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, Let’s get to work,” Austin tweeted Friday.
Austin’s nomination was approved despite concerns raised on both sides of the aisle that he hadn’t been out of uniform for the legally mandated seven-year period.
Austin becomes just the third Pentagon chief to serve after receiving a waiver. He joins George Marshall, a retired general of the Army nominated in 1950 by President Harry Truman, and retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, former President Donald Trump’s first defense secretary in 2017.
Austin served more than 40 years in the Army, and headed U.S. Central Command, the Pentagon’s key post leading military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. He served as commander of the theatre from 2013 to 2016, making him the first Black general to hold that post.
Austin graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1975 with a commission in the Infantry, according to his biography from the American Academy of Diplomacy.
He was born in Mobile, Alabama, but grew up in Thomasville, Georgia. That’s the same Georgia town where Army Lt. Henry O. Flipper was born.
Flipper was born a slave in 1856 and went on to become the first Black graduate of West Point and the first African American commissioned officer in the Army.
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