Scott Statement on Vote for General Lloyd Austin Waiver to Serve as Secretary of Defense

January 21, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Bobby Scott issued the following statement on his vote in favor of H.R. 335, a bill to provide for an exception to a limitation against appointment of persons as Secretary of Defense within seven years of relief from active duty as a regular commissioned officer of the Armed Forces. Specifically, the legislation would allow retired General Lloyd Austin III to serve as Secretary of Defense if confirmed by the United States Senate.

“Under President Obama, General Austin oversaw operations against the Islamic State (ISIS) and the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces in Iraq. He has a distinguished military career with the Army and has a firm commitment to civilian leadership within the military. Therefore, I voted for this narrow waiver to allow General Austin to serve as Secretary of Defense.

“Waivers of this important provision of the National Security Act protecting civilian control of the Defense Department should be rare and those who receive them should make clear to Congress their commitment to civilian control. While I thought General James Mattis was qualified to serve as Secretary of Defense in 2017, I was troubled that the Trump transition denied an opportunity for him to testify before the House Armed Services Committee to confirm his understanding of the principle of civilian control. Thus, I opposed the 2017 waiver, which was also not specific to only General Mattis.

“Whereas the Biden transition made General Austin readily available, but a formal hearing on his waiver was not possible as the House Armed Services Committee has not yet been able to formally organize. Since his nomination by President Biden, General Austin has been in regular contact with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith and members of the committee allowing them to express their concerns and ask tough questions of the General. Chairman Smith and members of the committee have expressed confidence that General Austin fully understands and appreciates the principle of civilian control of our military. I also had an opportunity this morning to hear directly from General Austin in a meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“While this is not the ideal process to consider a waiver, ensuring President Biden has a Senate-confirmed Secretary of Defense in place as soon as possible is paramount to our national security. General Austin is immensely qualified and has the skills and knowledge to serve as the next Secretary of Defense. After a tumultuous four years under President Trump, our nation’s servicemembers deserve a leader who will restore normalcy to the Pentagon.”

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