Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday for his confirmation hearing to become defense secretary. If confirmed, he would become the first Black defense secretary in American history. Before the Senate is able to confirm his nomination, Congress must pass a waiver that would exempt him from a law requiring that a military officer be retired for at least seven years before serving as defense secretary. Austin retired from the Army in 2016. Jim Mattis, a recently retired four-star Marine general, required the same waiver when Donald Trump picked him to serve as his first defense secretary. Both of these nominations raised concerns that the norm of civilian control of the military is eroding.
For this reason, civil-military relations will surely be a key part of the questioning Austin will receive. However, stepping in to lead the Defense Department following four years of Trump as commander-in-chief means the challenges awaiting Austin are multifold. They range from the strategic (What is the mission and how should it be resourced in Afghanistan? What is the Biden administration’s approach to Iran?) to personnel and readiness issues (undoing the transgender military ban, sexual assault and harassment, and a resurgence of white supremacy and right-wing extremism in the ranks), not to mention the Pentagon issues that never seem to go away: a broken acquisition system and out-of-control costs. To prepare for the hearing, Just Security surveyed some of the top defense experts and thinkers to get their thoughts on what issues they’d like to see addressed and what questions they’d like to see asked.The above excerpt was originally published in Just Security. Please click here to view the full article.