Senate Confirms Alabama-Connected Austin as Secretary of Defense

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted 93 for and two against on Jan. 22 to confirm retired Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III as secretary of defense.

Austin, who was educated at Auburn University and has sat on its board, is the first Black to hold the position in its 74-year history. Both Alabama senators voted in favor of confirming Austin.

When Austin, 67, retired from active duty in April 2016, he was leader of the United States Central Command. He was the last commanding general in Iraq between 2010 and 2011 and directed the drawdown of U.S. troops there.

Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said: “We are living through … a pandemic, racial tensions, riots, turmoil at the top of the Pentagon and rising dangers from China, Russia and Iran. Mr. Austin’s confirmation won’t solve all of these problems, but it will help. He represents the best of America, a man of integrity, humility and character and a wealth of relevant experience.”

A yes vote was to confirm Austin.


Voting yes: Richard Shelby, R, Tommy Tuberville, R

Waiver to Allow Austin to Serve

Before a vote could be taken to confirm Austin, the House and Senate had to approve a waiver (HR 335) allowing him to serve as secretary of defense even though he has been out of uniform for less than the seven-year hiatus required by law. That law is based on an American principle dating to 1783 of civilian control of the military. Austin retired in April 2016.

The House voting 326 for and 78 against that waiver Jan. 21.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said: “In my conversations (Austin) assured me he understands, respects and will uphold the critical priority of civilian control of the military … . In the face of the many threats both foreign and domestic confronting our nation it is essential that (he) be immediately confirmed.”

Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., said: “I voted in favor of the exemption for (former Defense) Secretary  Mattis … . So it’s fair to ask, what has changed? Well, a lot has changed. First, perhaps most importantly, the threat from China is far greater and we need a secretary with Indo-Pacific Command experience. The nominee has admitted he’s not experienced in that regard.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate. All of Alabama’s representatives voted for the waiver.


Voting yes: Jerry Carl, R-1, Barry Moore, R-2, Mike Rogers, R-3, Robert Aderholt, R-4, Mo Brooks, R-5, Gary Palmer, R-6, Terri Sewell,


Voting no: None

In the Senate, the vote was 69 for and 27 against giving Austin a waiver. There was no debate on the bill.

A yes vote was to send the bill to President Biden.


Voting yes: Shelby, Tuberville

Voting no: none

Confirming Avril Haines as director of national intelligence

Voting 84 for and 10 against, the Senate on Jan. 20 confirmed Avril D. Haines, 51, as director of national intelligence, elevating her as the first woman to lead the U.S. intelligence community.

Created in response to 9/11, her office is charged with overseeing the 16 U.S. civilian and military spy agencies. An attorney and trained physicist, Haines was deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2013 to 2015, the first woman to hold that office, and before that a top aide to former President Barack Obama on security issues.

Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said: “After a tumultuous four years and a president who routinely scorned the work of our intelligence community, it is critical to restore professional leadership who will work with the administration and Congress, deliver honest assessments and speak truth to power. Ms. Haines is the right woman for the job.”

No senator spoke against the nominee.

A yes vote was to confirm Haines.


Voting yes: Shelby, Tuberville

Voting no:  None


The Senate will vote on Biden administration nominees in the week of Jan. 25, while the House will be in recess.