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A number of House Democrats want President-elect Joe Biden’s defense secretary nominee to commit to ensuring civilian control of the military as the retired Army general seeks an exemption to take the post, according to a report.
The law requires defense secretaries who have served in the military to be out of it for at least seven years, but Lloyd Austin retired four years ago, meaning he would need a waiver from Congress to take the job.
“We have tremendous respect for your experience, your talent, and your service to our nation. We are grateful for your willingness to continue that service. And we recognize the truly historic nature of your nomination, especially at a time that so many segments of our society, including the military, are confronting issues of equality and justice,” six House Democrats wrote in a letter to Austin, according to The Hill.
“But separate from your exceptional qualifications, your selection raises fundamental issues that go beyond any one nomination, no matter how qualified or historic the nominee,” they added in the letter released Tuesday.
The members want Austin to make commitments that the military will remain in civilian control before they vote on a waiver.
In 2017, Congress passed an exemption for retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to serve as President Trump’s defense secretary.
Biden said that he and Austin — who, if confirmed, would be the first African American to lead the Pentagon — “believe in the importance of civilian control of the military.”
He has asked Congress to approve a waiver.
“We need his firsthand knowledge of the immeasurable cost of war, and the burden it places on our service members and their families, to help bring to an end the forever wars and ensure that the use of force is the last tool in our toolbox,” Biden said earlier this month. “Not the first.”
The Democrats’ letter to Austin was organized by Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), a former Pentagon official.
The missive was also signed by Reps. Colin Allred of Texas, Salud Carbajal of California, Veronica Escobar of Texas, Tom Malinkowski of New Jersey and Susan Wild of Pennsylvania.
All six are either members of the House Armed Services or Foreign Affairs committees.
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