January 21, 2021

Cortez Masto Statement on Congressional Waiver for General Austin as Secretary of Defense

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) released the following statement in response to her vote on the Congressional waiver to permit the confirmation of retired General Lloyd J. Austin to serve as Secretary of Defense. While Senator Cortez Masto believes General Austin is qualified for the position, she voted against the waiver due to concerns about the erosion of civilian control over the U.S. military. Under current law, military officers cannot serve as Secretary of Defense until seven years after they have retired from active duty unless they are granted a waiver by Congress. Austin retired from the U.S. Army on May 1, 2016.

“General Austin has served our country for over 40 years, and his impressive credentials make him incredibly qualified for the position of Secretary of Defense. Yet I cannot support continuing to erode civilian control over our military, which is a foundational principle of our democracy. In 2017, I voted in favor of a waiver for General Mattis because he presented one of the few options to reign in the most dangerous impulses of President Trump. The same is not true of our current moment. The events of January 6th show us how vital it is to preserve the strength of our democratic institutions. We cannot pick and choose which ones we want to protect when it’s convenient. So I voted today to protect the norms that ensure civilian control over our military, which is so essential to the life of our democracy.”

“To be clear, I respect my colleagues’ decision to move forward with his confirmation. In the coming days, I will speak with General Austin about Nevada’s national security priorities and continue to evaluate his record independent of my vote today.”