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Senate Confirms Gen. Lloyd Austin as Defense Secretary

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The Senate has confirmed Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense in a 93-2 vote on Friday. President Biden said that Austin has “intimate knowledge of the Department of Defense,” which will support Biden's defense initiatives. His confirmation follows Congress' approval of the waiver to facilitate Austin’s confirmation on Thursday. 

The House voted 326-78 and the Senate passed in a 69-27 vote a congressional waiver that would exempt Austin from a law that requires former military officials to wait seven years after retirement from active duty to serve in the top civilian job at the DOD. 

Austin spent four decades in military service and retired in 2016 as head of U.S. Central Command. He previously discussed his top priorities once confirmed, including plans to address the COVID-19 pandemic and reaffirm military alliances with countries in the Indo-Pacific.

“[Austin] and I share a commitment to empowering our diplomats and development experts to lead our foreign policy, using force only as our last resort,” Biden said. Austin addressed DOD innovation and technology priorities, during his confirmation hearing Tuesday. “We will have to employ the use of space-based platforms, we have to use [artificial intelligence],” Austin said. “This is not a choice, in my view.” 

During his hearing, Austin spoke of his awareness of the DOD’s emphasis on technology and innovation programs. He noted that China was the largest threat to U.S. strategic security, adding that he will work to enable DOD’s competitive tech advantage.

Austin will collaborate with technology leaders to accelerate modernization across DOD’s platforms and networks, including Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2), leveraging emerging technologies to increase interoperability and efficiency. 

He added that the department needs to ensure the right operational concepts to meet future threats. Austin added that connected battlefield networks would be a priority and that AI was vital to the future of warfare. 

In addition, Austin discussed working with senators on technology issues, such as acquisition reform, to increase innovative, solution-driven methods, reducing rigid requirements.