Retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin answers questions during his confirmation before the Senate Armed Services Committee on January 19, 2021.(REUTERS)
Retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin answers questions during his confirmation before the Senate Armed Services Committee on January 19, 2021.(REUTERS)

US Senate approves Biden nominee Lloyd Austin as 1st Black Pentagon chief

Biden is expected to win approval for others on his national security team in coming days, including Antony Blinken as secretary of state.
AP
UPDATED ON JAN 22, 2021 10:05 PM IST

Lloyd J. Austin, a West Point graduate who rose to the Army's elite ranks and marched through racial barriers in a 41-year career, won Senate confirmation Friday to become the nation's first Black secretary of defense.

The 93-2 vote gave President Joe Biden his second Cabinet member; Avril Haines was confirmed on Wednesday as the first woman to serve as director of national intelligence. Biden is expected to win approval for others on his national security team in coming days, including Antony Blinken as secretary of state.

Biden is looking for Austin to restore stability atop the Pentagon, which went through two Senate-confirmed secretaries of defense and four who held the post on an interim basis during the Trump administration.

Austin's confirmation was complicated by his status as a recently retired general. He required a waiver of a legal prohibition on a military officer serving as secretary of defense within seven years of retirement. Austin retired in 2016 after serving as the first Black general to head US Central Command. He was the first Black vice chief of staff of the Army in 2012 and also served as director of the Joint Staff, a behind-the-scenes job that gave him an intimate view of the Pentagon's inner workings.

The House and the Senate approved the waiver Thursday, clearing the way for the Senate confirmation vote.

Read | Avril Haines is first official member of President Joe Biden's cabinet

Austin, a large man with a booming voice and a tendency to shy from publicity, describes himself as the son of a postal worker and a homemaker from Thomasville, Georgia. He has promised to speak his mind to Congress and to Biden.

At his confirmation hearing Tuesday, Austin said he had not sought the nomination but was ready to lead the Pentagon without clinging to his military status and with full awareness that being a political appointee and Cabinet member requires “a different perspective and unique duties from a career in uniform.”

As vice president, Biden worked closely with Austin in 2010-11 to wind down US military involvement in Iraq while Austin was the top US commander in Baghdad. American forces withdrew entirely, only to return in 2014 after the Islamic State extremist group captured large swaths of Iraqi territory. At Central Command, Austin was a key architect of the strategy to defeat IS in Iraq and Syria.

Biden said in December when he announced Austin as his nominee that he considered him “the person we need at this moment,” and that he trusts Austin to ensure civilian control of the military. Critics of the nomination have questioned the wisdom of making an exception to the law against a recently retired military officer serving as defense secretary, noting that the prohibition was put in place to guard against undue military influence in national security matters.

Only twice before has Congress waived the prohibition — in 1950 for George C. Marshall during the Korean War and in 2017 for Jim Mattis, the retired Marine general who served as President Donald Trump's first Pentagon chief.

Read | Joe Biden picks members of his cabinet: Who are they and why they matter

Austin has promised to surround himself with qualified civilians. And he made clear at his confirmation hearing that he embraces Biden's early focus on combatting the coronavirus pandemic.

"I will quickly review the department’s contributions to coronavirus relief efforts, ensuring we are doing everything we can — and then some — to help distribute vaccines across the country and to vaccinate our troops and preserve readiness,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Under questioning by senators, Austin pledged to address white supremacy and violent extremism in the ranks of the military — problems that received relatively little public attention from his immediate predecessor, Mark Esper. Austin promised to “rid our ranks of racists,” and said he takes the problem personally.

“The Defense Department’s job is to keep America safe from our enemies,” he said. “But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks.”

Austin said he will insist that the leaders of every military service know that extremist behavior in their ranks is unacceptable.

“This is not something we can be passive on,” he said. “This is something I think we have to be active on, and we have to lean into it and make sure that we’re doing the right things to create the right climate.”

He offered glimpses of other policy priorities, indicating that he embraces the view among many in Congress that China is the “pacing challenge,” or the leading national security problem for the US.

The Middle East was the main focus for Austin during much of his Army career, particularly when he reached senior officer ranks.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Governments say getting vaccinated and having proper documentation will smooth the way to travel.(REUTERS)
Governments say getting vaccinated and having proper documentation will smooth the way to travel.(REUTERS)

Covid vaccination 'passports' may open society, but inequity looms

PTI, Tel Aviv
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 01:03 PM IST
The highly controlled concert offered a glimpse of a future that many are longing for after months of Covid-19 restrictions.
Close
Representative Image
Representative Image

US achieves milestone of administering 50 million Covid-19 vaccine shots

PTI
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 12:53 PM IST
President Joe Biden said on Thursday the US reached the halfway mark of 50 million shots in just 37 days since he came to office.
Close
The microfluidic chip developed by researchers from Rice University in the US measures the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid (N) protein.(REUTERS)
The microfluidic chip developed by researchers from Rice University in the US measures the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid (N) protein.(REUTERS)

Novel chip for Covid-19 testing delivers results on smartphone

PTI, Washington
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 12:19 PM IST
The researchers noted that their process simplifies sample handling compared to swab-based PCR tests that are widely used to diagnose Covid-19.
Close
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (File Photo/REUTERS)
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (File Photo/REUTERS)

‘Hope other countries follow your example’: WHO chief lauds India, PM Modi

By hindustantimes.com | Written by Karan Manral
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 12:17 PM IST
In a tweet late on Thursday night, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised India for providing Covid-19 vaccines to more than 60 countries.
Close
Umer Jan, 12, takes part in a rally to encourage Canada and other countries as they consider labelling China's treatment of its Uighur population and Muslim minorities as genocide, outside the Canadian embassy in Washington, DC, US on February 19, 2021. (REUTERS)
Umer Jan, 12, takes part in a rally to encourage Canada and other countries as they consider labelling China's treatment of its Uighur population and Muslim minorities as genocide, outside the Canadian embassy in Washington, DC, US on February 19, 2021. (REUTERS)

Canadian panel calls for ‘targeted sanctions’ on China for its role in Hong Kong

By Anirudh Bhattacharyya I Edited by Nadim Siraj
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 11:11 AM IST
It is among the recommendations listed in a report released by the House of Commons special committee on Canada-China relations, marking yet another low in the two countries’ deteriorating ties
Close
US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during the press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC. (AFP)
US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during the press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC. (AFP)

United States asks Pakistan to play a ‘constructive role’ in the region

By Yashwant Raj I Edited by Nadim Siraj
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 11:01 AM IST
The development comes in the backdrop of a ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control and amid growing calls from experts for a re-set of US-Pakistan ties
Close
Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.(Reuters File Photo)
Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.(Reuters File Photo)

Saudi Crown Prince implicated in Khashoggi murder, US finds

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 10:41 AM IST
It wasn’t immediately clear how much detail the declassified version of the report will provide about Prince Mohammed’s role in the killing.
Close
Vivek Murthy returns as Surgeon General, his old job in the administration of Barack Obama.(Reuters file)
Vivek Murthy returns as Surgeon General, his old job in the administration of Barack Obama.(Reuters file)

'Priority is to turn the pandemic around': US Surgeon General nominee Murthy

PTI
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 12:28 PM IST
Indian-American Dr Vivek Murthy, US President Joe Biden's nominee for America's Surgeon General on Thursday appeared for his confirmation hearing by the Senate.
Close
In a proclamation issued on Wednesday, President Joe Biden said the ban “does not advance the interests of the United States”.(Reuters Photo)
In a proclamation issued on Wednesday, President Joe Biden said the ban “does not advance the interests of the United States”.(Reuters Photo)

US lifts Trump-era ban on legal immigration

By Yashwant Raj, Washington
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 08:00 AM IST
In April 2020, Trump had temporarily suspended for 60 days the entry of legal immigrants - affecting green cards - as layoffs had begun to spike. There were some exceptions, such as dependents of US citizens.
Close
A pedestrian wearing her facemask and holding a cup of coffee walks past a closed sign hanging on the door of a small business in Los Angeles, California.
A pedestrian wearing her facemask and holding a cup of coffee walks past a closed sign hanging on the door of a small business in Los Angeles, California.

In US' California, death toll due to Covid-19 tops 50,000

ANI
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 07:58 AM IST
As per the latest data, 1,114 deaths were reported during the previous 24 hours, taking the total toll to 50,991.
Close
In a statement, the FATF noted that Pakistan has made “significant progress” on the entire action plan, and has “largely addressed 24 of the 27 action items”.(AP)
In a statement, the FATF noted that Pakistan has made “significant progress” on the entire action plan, and has “largely addressed 24 of the 27 action items”.(AP)

Terror financing watchdog keeps Pakistan on ‘grey list’

UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 07:55 AM IST
The outcome was widely anticipated, though Pakistan has failed to meet all deadlines set by the multilateral watchdog to complete the 27-point action plan that was drawn up after the country was placed on the grey list - which is the list of countries under increased monitoring - in June 2018.
Close
The UN logo at the United Nations headquarters in New York. (HT archive)
The UN logo at the United Nations headquarters in New York. (HT archive)

UNGA President welcomes ceasefire agreement between India, Pakistan

ANI
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 07:53 AM IST
On Thursday, India and Pakistan released a joint statement saying that they have agreed to a ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) starting from February 25.
Close
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met for nearly two hours on the sidelines of the SCO meet in Russia last year. (PTI)
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met for nearly two hours on the sidelines of the SCO meet in Russia last year. (PTI)

Border dispute objective reality, should be put at right position in ties: China

By Sutirtho Patranobis, Beijing
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 07:45 AM IST
  • The phone call was the first formal contact between Jaishankar and Wang since they met on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in Moscow on September 10 last year.
Close
FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen in front of a displayed Australian flag in this illustration photo taken February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo(REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen in front of a displayed Australian flag in this illustration photo taken February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo(REUTERS)

Facebook signs pay deals with 3 Australian news publishers

AP, Canberra
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 07:22 AM IST
The commercial agreements are subject to the signing of full agreements within the next 60 days, a Facebook statement said.
Close
US President Joe Biden displays his face mask as he speaks during an event to commemorate the 50 millionth coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccination in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington. (Reuters Photo)
US President Joe Biden displays his face mask as he speaks during an event to commemorate the 50 millionth coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccination in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington. (Reuters Photo)

Joe Biden believes it's important to modernise immigration system: White House

PTI, Washington
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 07:07 AM IST
Reopening the country to people seeking green cards, or legal permanent residence, Biden in his proclamation on Wednesday said that the policy of former President Donald Trump does not advance the interests of the United States.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP