Rep. Porter Statement on Waiver for General Austin to Serve as Secretary of Defense
Washington, January 21, 2021
Congresswoman Katie Porter (CA-45) today released the following statement after the House of Representatives voted to grant a waiver for General Lloyd Austin to serve as Secretary of Defense:
“Civilian control of the military is one of the most fundamental founding principles of our country. This value must guide our work in Congress, regardless of which party controls the White House.
“Of course, there are times when the realities of the current moment demand that we apply our principles differently than we otherwise might. With America under threat from pandemic disease, white nationalist movements, and all manner of foreign adversaries, it is appropriate to discuss whether this is such a moment.
“But, we must discuss it. I have great respect for General Austin; however, without an open hearing in the House of Representatives, I cannot support a waiver for him to serve as Secretary of Defense.
“The constitutional power to raise armies and to declare war rests with Congress in part because the military must be accountable to the people. From waste, fraud, and abuse at the Pentagon, to the brink of nuclear war with North Korea, to tear-gassing peaceful protestors, that accountability was badly damaged by the Trump Administration. It cannot be restored by further degrading our democratic institutions.”
Under the National Security Act of 1947, which established the Department of Defense, retired military officers must wait 10 years before serving as Secretary of Defense. In 2008, Congress shortened the waiting period to seven years. General Austin retired in 2016 after more than 40 years in the U.S. Army, ending with three years as head of U.S. Central Command. Congress has granted waivers only twice: in 1950 for General George Marshall, and in 2017, for General James Mattis.