The Senate confirmed Lloyd J. Austin as Defense secretary Friday, putting the first Black American in charge of the Pentagon by a vote of 93-2.
Austin, a retired four-star Army general who commanded U.S. forces in the Middle East, becomes the second member of President Biden’s Cabinet to be approved by the Senate. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines was confirmed Wednesday, after Biden’s swearing-in, and several other Cabinet members are likely to get confirmation votes soon.
Austin takes over the Pentagon as far-reaching decisions lie immediately ahead. Among them: whether to proceed with further troop drawdowns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria; clarifying the military’s role in assisting the domestic response to the COVID-19 pandemic; and how to focus U.S. security strategy more on countering China in East Asia, which Austin has said will be one of his priorities.