MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - All of Alabama’s congressional delegates voted Thursday for approval of a waiver for Alabama native Lloyd J. Austin III to be qualified to serve as the next Secretary of Defense, but one says he has reservations about “a dysfunctional process.”
Austin retired from the military in 2016, but federal law stipulates he must wait seven years before he’s eligible to serve as Secretary of Defense. However, Congress can issue a waiver.
Rep. Terri Sewell, the state’s only Democrat in Congress, and the chair of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Defense Intelligence and Warfighter Support, voted to approve the waiver.
“General Austin has an exemplary 41-year career of service and his battle-proven leadership and independence demonstrate he is the right choice to lead the Pentagon during these difficult times,” Sewell said Thursday.
Rep. Mike Rogers, a ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, also voted for the waiver, like he did four years earlier.
“I voted for the waiver for [retired General James Mattis], and I will vote for the waiver for General Austin,” Rogers said. “For me, that is fair - a waiver for a Republican president and a Democrat president. But I stand here frustrated with a dysfunctional process.”
Rogers put the issue at the feet of then-President Trump and new President Joe Biden whose defense secretaries have required two of just three waivers approved since the law was enacted shortly after World War II to ensure civilian control of the military.
“President Trump and President Biden forced Congress into these situations, made worse this time around by the Speaker’s decision to ignore regular order,” Rogers said. “Congress should not have to entertain these waivers. Presidents need to follow the law as written. They need to stop asking Congress to waive this statute. And we certainly shouldn’t be forced to do so outside of regular order.”
Should the Mobile native be approved - and the waiver makes it much more likely that he will be - the retired general would becomes the first Black U.S. Secretary of Defense in history. It could come as early as Friday.