Langevin Statement on the Waiver for Lloyd Austin to Serve as Secretary of Defense

Jan 21, 2021 Issues: Armed Services

WASHINGTON – Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, released the following statement after voting to provide a waiver to allow Retired General Lloyd Austin to serve as Secretary of Defense. Earlier in the afternoon, Langevin participated in a briefing with the Defense Secretary nominee where Austin answered questions from Armed Services Committee Members about his views on civil-military relations. The following may be attributed to Congressman Langevin:

“I am excited to support this country’s first African-American Secretary of Defense. Lloyd Austin has served his country admirably in the military and has continued to answer the call as a civilian. I’ve known him for years in his capacity as a soldier, and I’ve been consistently impressed by his leadership. However, after meeting with him today, I am also confident in his ability to lead as a civilian—not a general.

“I had hoped that my conversation with Secretary-designate Austin could have happened in an open hearing. Civil-military relations is a complicated issue, but it’s vitally important to our democracy. The Trump Administration dangerously eroded civil-military relations and seemed to operate under the assumption that military experience is a prerequisite for strong leadership in the national security realm. This notion belies the dedication and expertise of our civilian public servants who commit their careers to national security. We cannot let those changes solidify into norms. In our briefing, Secretary-designate Austin committed to ensuring that civilians feel empowered to question military leaders in the Department, an essential step in asserting civilian control of our military.

“Four years ago, the House Armed Services Committee asked General Mattis to appear before our panel, but his appearance was canceled by the Trump transition team. Unlike Secretary Mattis, Secretary-designate Austin did appear before members today, and the Biden Administration supported him doing so in a formal, open hearing. Unfortunately, the House Armed Services Committee had not officially organized in time to conduct an official hearing, and it is imperative that President Biden have his national security team in place as quickly as possible. I am confident in Secretary-designate Austin’s abilities to lead the Department and to bridge the civil-military divide. He has my full support, and I look forward to working with him.”