A bloc of House Republicans is against a necessary waiver for Retired Army General Lloyd Austin to serve as Biden’s secretary of defense.
Austin needs a waiver to run the Pentagon because he retired from the Army in 2016. Under US law, a secretary of defense must be at least seven years removed from military service.
The Republican Study Committee, which most House Republicans belong to, released a memo on Thursday arguing against a waiver for Austin. The memo said granting Austin a waiver so soon after giving one to James Mattis in 2017 would set a “dangerous precedent.” Before Mattis, the last Pentagon chief that was granted a waiver was George Marshal in 1950.
Another argument against Austin that Republicans have made is that he has no experience dealing with China, something the memo addressed. “He lacks civilian experience, has no experience in countering China,” the memo reads. Some House Republicans have previously said they would prefer if Michele Flournoy got the job, a China hawk who was rumored to be in the running for the position.
The Republican Study Committee also took a shot at Austin’s record as head of US Central Command, where he oversaw President Obama’s Middle East policies from 2013 to 2016. The conservative group said Austin “has a track record of failures as the head in Syria and Iraq and in the war on ISIS.”
Several Democratic senators have also spoken out against granting Austin a waiver. With opposition from both Republicans and Democrats, Austin’s chances of getting the waiver are starting to look slim.
Another issue with Austin, although nobody in Congress seems to mind, is that he’s served on the board of Raytheon since his retirement in 2016.
In the meantime, Joe Biden tapped President Trump’s current deputy secretary of defense to fill the position. David Norquist, whose been in Trump’s Pentagon since 2017, will serve as acting secretary of defense while Austin’s situation is being sorted out.