15 former high-level defense officials, including three former Defense Secretaries, have signed a letter urging congress to waive a rule that would bar President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee from serving in that role.
Biden has selected retired four-star general Lloyd Austin to head his Department of Defense (DOD), but Austin is technically ineligible due to a rule barring recently-active military leaders from serving in the role of Defense Secretary. That is the rule the 15 letter signees would like to see congress waive, reports Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin.
Scoop: 15 former Defense Secretaries, Deputies and service secretaries sign letter urging waiver for Lloyd Austin to serve as Biden Defense Secretary: includes Panetta, Hagel, Perry pic.twitter.com/5WtpU419DJ
— Jennifer Griffin (@JenGriffinFNC) January 18, 2021
Under federal law, a defense secretary must have been retired from active service for at least seven years before taking on the civilian role at the DOD. Austin did not retire until 2016. The law can be bypassed if both the House and Senate grant a waiver. (RELATED: Biden’s Pentagon Pick Lloyd Austin Was Accused Of Downplaying ISIS Threat)
“Now, more than ever, we need an experienced, competent, organized, and respected Secretary of Defense,” the letter reads. “We do not make this recommendation lightly. The principle of civilian control is fundamental to the modern military.”
Among the letter’s signees are former Defense Secretaries Chuck Hagel, Leon Panetta, and William Perry. Others include two former deputy Secretaries of Defense, two former Army Secretaries, three former Navy Secretaries, and five former Air Force Secretaries.
Congress granted the same waiver to President Donald Trump’s former Secretary of Defense James Mattis in 2017. A number of Democrats in the senate, including some who voted against a waiver for Mattis, have indicated they may not support the waiver for Austin.