Media Release from WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 335, a bill to provide an exception for General Lloyd Austin to become Secretary of Defense despite having retired from the military fewer than seven years ago as required by law. Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) voted for this legislation and issued the following statement:
“For the second time in four years, the new President has nominated a Secretary of Defense who requires an exemption from law in order to lead the U.S. military without the required seven years of distance from active duty. Civilian leadership of our military is of the utmost importance and granting such a waiver should be done rarely and only when necessary. Coming to this decision was difficult and done so only with the understanding that General Austin fully understands the importance of this principle and is committed to upholding it both in his own service and as he builds his staff with civilians in key positions.
“Civilian leadership will not be upheld solely by the seven-year requirement in law. Nominees must demonstrate that they will do the necessary work to uphold it, regardless of how much time they have spent since leaving military service. I voted to support a waiver for General Austin because I believe he will preserve this principle and that he is the right candidate for the job.
“General Austin has demonstrated through his service and command that he understands the costs of endless wars, and will work with President Biden to bring our troops home while prioritizing diplomacy and coalition-building over needless aggression and intervention. And his confirmation would give our country its first African American Secretary of Defense, a historic achievement that underscores the importance of diversity and inclusion in the Armed Forces. I am further reassured by his commitment to root out white supremacy and racism within the military’s ranks. This is important not only in response to the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, but also as a necessary step to eliminate incidents of hazing in the military. My nephew, Harry Lew, was a victim of racist hazing in the Marine Corps, which was so severe that it ultimately led to him taking his own life. For years, I have worked to ensure the Pentagon adopts comprehensive anti-hazing policies, and I look forward to continuing this work with Secretary Austin following his confirmation.”