Austin is also the first member of the future government of the new US president, Joe Biden, to whom the House of Commons has nodded. The presidency of the Ministry of Defense was almost unanimously voted: 93 votes in favor and two against.
Austin’s appointment was hampered by the fact that it had been dissolved only four years earlier instead of the required seven, so Congress had to make an exception. According to the rules, the defense minister must be a civilian, or if he has served as a soldier, he must leave the army at least seven years before his appointment. Congress made an exception before: Four years ago, former President Donald Trump’s first Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, was also waived from the regulations.
At a ministerial hearing, Austin said he would fight to end sexual assault within the military, purging the army of racists and extremists, and creating an atmosphere in which anyone could be given the opportunity to serve the country. Other goals of the future defense secretary include strengthening ties between the United States and its partners. Austin sees China as one of the biggest challenges.
The Senate had approved Avril Haines’ nomination for Director of National Intelligence the day before. Haines is the first woman to hold the position. The House of Commons Finance Committee on Friday voted unanimously to nominate Janet Yellen for funding, which put Yellen within her reach as she was the first woman to head the US Treasury. Biden promised that his government would reflect the diversity of the United States.
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