The Senate today voted to confirm President Biden’s pick for Secretary of the Department of Defense (DoD) Lloyd Austin.

Austin, who is the country’s first Black Defense Secretary, is the second cabinet nominee to be confirmed by the Senate. On Jan. 20, Avril Haines was the first cabinet nominee to be confirmed when the Senate signed off on her nomination to be the director of national intelligence.

Unlike other cabinet nominations, Austin’s nomination required votes in both the House and Senate. He required a waiver from both houses of Congress to serve as DoD Secretary due to a law requiring DoD secretaries to be out of uniform for at least seven years; the law aims to ensure civilian control of the Armed Forces. Austin retired from the military in 2016.

During his Senate confirmation hearing, Austin stressed his commitment to civilian control of the Armed Forces.

“If confirmed, I will carry out the mission of the Department of Defense, always with the goal to deter war and ensure our nation’s security, and I will uphold the principle of civilian control of the military, as intended,” he said. “I would not be here, asking for your support, if I felt I was unable or unwilling to question people with whom I once served and operations I once led, or too afraid to speak my mind to you or to the president.”

On Jan. 21, the House and Senate held back-to-back votes to pass legislation granting Austin the waiver. The Senate approved Austin’s waiver by a vote of 69-27 and the House approved the waiver by a vote of 326 to 78. After approving the waiver, the Senate approved his nomination with a vote of 93 to 2 vote.

Austin faced a barrage of cybersecurity questions during his Senate confirmation hearing.

“We must elevate cybersecurity as an imperative across the government in order to defend the American people and U.S. critical infrastructure,” Austin said. “Additionally, the government must continue to strengthen its partnership with the private sector to foster greater information sharing and collaboration.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.