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Senate confirms Austin to be 28th US Secretary of Defense

Retired US Army general Lloyd Austin III has been confirmed as the 28th Secretary of Defense, marking the first time an African-American will lead the department.

On 21 January, both the House and Senate chambers approved a waiver exempting Austin from a requirement barring retired uniformed military personnel from serving as the defence secretary for seven years. The following day, senators voted 93-2 confirming him to the post and he is expected to be sworn in immediately.

“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,” he wrote in a tweet. “Let’s get to work.”

Austin spent more than four decades in the service including time as the vice chief of staff of the army, as the Combined Forces commander in Iraq and Syria, and as the head of US Central Command (USCENTCOM). After retiring in 2016, he joined the board of directors for Raytheon Technologies.

During his confirmation before the Senate Committee on Armed Services on 19 January, Austin promised to recuse himself from any decisions involving Raytheon for four years – double the amount of time required by law.

“I can pledge to you that I’ll be mindful not only of the legal requirements that govern my conduct, but also of the appearances to ensure that the public has no reason to question my impartiality,” Austin told lawmakers. “I’ll consult with the DoD [Department of Defense] career ethics officials on these issues and will require everyone that serves with me to ensure that public service is, and will remain, a public trust.”

The US Senate has confirmed retired US Army general Lloyd Austin III as the 28th Secretary of Defense. (US Department of Defense)

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