Congress: Don’t Grant Austin a Waiver, but If You Do, Reform the Process

This op-ed was originally published in Lawfare.

Four years after four-star general Lloyd J. Austin III retired from the U.S. Army, President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Austin to serve as his secretary of defense. Austin’s military career is accomplished, and his nomination, historic. But another roadblock stands in Austin’s way even before Congress can assess his merits for the cabinet position: Congress would first have to grant Austin an exemption from the statutory requirement that retired service members be out of uniform for at least seven years before running the Defense Department.

A congressional waiver would override the seven-year restriction. If confirmed, Austin would be only the third retired general to serve as secretary of defense since Congress unified the military services into a single Department of Defense soon after World War II. As it stands, Congress is poised to consider the issue of Austin’s waiver on an expedited basis. And reports suggest that Congress will grant him the exemption.

Read the full op-ed on Lawfare.

About the Authors

Soren Dayton

Policy Advocate

Soren Dayton leads several institutional reform efforts across Protect Democracy.

Christine Kwon


Christine Kwon focuses on legal and policy advocacy to stop and seek accountability for abuses of power and those who undermine democracy.

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