By: Aimee Soto, Legislative Intern
In a recent hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Lloyd Austin was called before the committee to discuss his experience, and stances on important issues, in the interest of evaluating his nomination as Secretary of Defense. Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense, spoke in support of General Austin. Panetta stated that Austin is more than capable of excelling within this position; Austin is committed and would provide transparency to the American people. He knows how vital both armed services and civilians are to this country and is well-suited to serve both communities. In his opening statement, General Austin expressed his intentions to tackle the most prevalent threat, Covid-19. If confirmed, he would work to tackle this problem that impacts military personnel and their families, so they may once again focus entirely on military readiness. General Austin later also stated his concern of China as the pacing threat of the United States. Senator Reed (D-RI) requested priority be established in competing with foreign security threats and creating an overall security plan which encompasses both soft power and military power. General Austin committed to this priority as well as, committed that he will make every effort to ensure agreements are reached in Afghanistan as he hopes to see a future Afghanistan that is not a threat to the United States.
Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) approached the questions of civil liberties provided in the military, specifically the ban of transgender military personnel, in addition to the lack of accountability regarding sexual assault. General Austin expressed his support to overturn President Trump’s transgender military policy. He also affirmed that he takes issues of sexual assault seriously and personally; it is evident that current military policy has made no progress on the affair, and there needs to be more done. General Austin would like to work with the chain of command in order to address what needs to be fixed and then report those findings to the President-elect. Furthermore, Senator Blumenthal (D-NY) raised concerns about white supremacists and the rise of extremism, Austin vowed to ensure they have no place in the United States military. Extremism, along with conspiracy theories, would not be tolerated under his leadership as prevention starts from the top; leaders need to set the example and ensure their subordinates follow.
Senator Cotton (R-AR) does not support providing the waiver that would allow Austin to serve; this is not because of the nominee himself but rather because of the perception of these waivers becoming routine. General Austin acknowledged the doubts others may have in selecting him to be the Secretary of Defense, nevertheless he assured members of the committee that he would work hard to upkeep transparency, work hand in hand with Congress, and work diligently on coronavirus relief. General Austin has served his country as a soldier but is now a civilian and is ready to serve the United States as one; he expressed the honor it would be if confirmed by the committee.