Home>Congress>Kim says he’ll back Austin waiver, but Sherrill not ready to commit

Retired U.S. Army General Lloyd Austin is President-elect Joe Biden's pick for U.S. Secretary of Defense. (Photo: U.S. Embassy, Paris.)

Kim says he’ll back Austin waiver, but Sherrill not ready to commit

Biden pick to head Pentagon must get waivers from Congress to serve within 7 years of retirement

By David Wildstein, December 08 2020 7:06 pm

Two Democrats from New Jersey who serve on the House Armed Services Committee today voiced different views on support of a waiver that would allow President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Defense, retired Army General Lloyd Austin, to serve in the cabinet.

Rep. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown) announced his support of Austin’s nomination, but Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) stopped short of doing so.

“When I worked at the White House before on counterterrorism, I had the chance to see up close and personal the work that General Austin accomplished as CENTCOM Commander.  He had a mastery over every issue and crisis we face,” said Kim, a former National Security Council staffer in the Obama White House.  “He was always extraordinarily thoughtful and unbelievably prepared whenever he spoke in the Situation Room and showed a level of professionalism and respect to our troops at every rank that I always admired in a leader.”

Kim said that Biden “deserves the person that he wants to lead our military and national security.”

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Austin would become the first Black to serve as Secretary of Defense.

I’m very impressed by  the Biden administration’s focus on building a diverse cabinet that looks like America, “ said Sherrill, an Annapolis graduate and former U.S. Navy helicopter pilot.  “I know people who have served under General Austin, and I have the utmost respect for his service, commitment to country, and the historical nature of his nomination to lead the Department of Defense.”

Biden must seek a waiver from Congress to bypass a law requiring Defense secretaries from holding the top civilian Pentagon post until seven years after their retirement from active military service.

Congress gave a similar waiver to James Mattis when he was nominated as Defense Secretary by President Donald Trump in 2017.

But Sherrill said that it is “also critical that we work to re-establish our Democratic norms.”

“This will be the second consecutive administration that has requested a waiver for a recently retired military officer to lead the Department of Defense,” Sherill stated.  “Civilian leadership over the military is one of our nation’s bedrock principles, and I hope to hear how General Austin will address this issue when he comes to testify before the House Armed Services Committee.”

A third New Jersey congressman, Donald Norcross (D-Camden), also serves on the Armed Services Committee.

Norcross has not yet commented on the waiver issue.

Biden doesn’t have a lock on getting a waiver.

Four Democratic U.S. Senators – Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Jon Tester (D-Montana) and Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) – said today that they would not support a waiver for Austin.

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