WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—released the following statement today after the Senate voted to waive the requirement that the Defense Secretary be out of military uniform for at least seven years, and then voted to confirm Lloyd Austin to the position:
“Yesterday, I voted against the waiver of the civilian status requirement for the Secretary of Defense because civilian control of our armed forces is a bedrock principle that is too important to compromise. Granting waivers for Defense Secretary nominees in two successive administrations weakens this norm. I believe that Lloyd Austin is committed to civilian control and will be a good Secretary of Defense, but no one person is more important to our nation’s success than our principles.
“Because I have confidence in Secretary Austin and believe he has the experience and stature that this critical position requires, after my colleagues voted to grant the waiver, I supported this nomination. Throughout Secretary Austin’s career, he has shown a demonstrated ability to lead with courage, and a staunch commitment to protecting the physical and mental health and well-being of American service members. Those qualities, and his determination to take necessary steps to address the challenges of new battlefield technologies, make the Department of Defense a force for good in the fight against climate chaos, and strengthen inclusion and equity in our ranks—including by lifting the transgender military service ban—make him a strong choice for this role. It’s long past time that the United States has a Black Secretary of Defense, and I applaud Secretary Austin’s historic ascension to this role.”
In 2017, Merkley similarly opposed the waiver for former Secretary Jim Mattis, President Trump’s first nominee to be Secretary of Defense, before voting to confirm him.