The biggest obstacle to retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin’s nomination for secretary of defense is his retirement date from the military just four years ago – too recent under American law and for the tastes of several members of Congress.
Multiple Democratic aides tell CNN they don’t think Austin’s nomination is in serious jeopardy right now, as President-elect Joe Biden and his team press for passage of a waiver by both chambers of Congress. The Biden transition says it does not expect problems in winning the waiver nor in confirming Austin.
But even lawmakers who consider Austin to be exceedingly qualified are worried about the congressional waiver it would require, exempting him from a law that demands the head of the US military be at least seven years past active duty. That law is meant to ensure civilian control of the Pentagon.
There is rising concern on both sides of the aisle about the idea of issuing another waiver so soon. James Mattis, President Donald Trump’s first secretary of defense, also required a waiver because he’d also been out of the military less than seven years when tapped to serve.