Golden Votes against Waiver for Biden Defense Secretary Nominee
WASHINGTON — Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02) today voted against waiving the requirement that retired and former servicemembers take at least seven years between their military service and serving as secretary of defense. President Biden is seeking to waive the requirement, which is intended to protect the American tradition of civilian control of the military, for his nominee for defense secretary, retired General Lloyd Austin. General Austin has been retired for four years.
Golden released the following statement explaining his vote:
“Today I voted against waiving the statutory requirement that the secretary of defense not have served in active military duty within the past seven years. This policy is meant to provide a cooling-off period between active service in the military and assuming the civilian leadership position of secretary of defense, a cabinet position that reports directly to the commander in chief, the president of the United States.
“My decision is in no way a reflection of any lack of respect for General Lloyd Austin, nor a lack of confidence in his ability to lead our military and the men and women in uniform. Should the collective judgment of the Congress be to approve President Biden’s request for this waiver, I hope my colleagues in the Senate will move quickly to confirm General Austin as the new secretary of defense, as I believe he is qualified by his long and honorable record of service to the nation in the United States Army.
“I am, however, concerned about waiving the seven-year cooling-off period, a policy tied to a foundational principle that our nation’s military should be subject to civilian control. I am also disappointed by the lack of substantive congressional debate that has been devoted to this important question. This requirement was put into place in 1947 with the creation of the Department of Defense and the position of the secretary of defense. To date, Congress has waived this requirement only twice, once in 1950 and not again for 67 years until it was granted in 2017 to Gen. Mattis, in part to accommodate for a president with no formal experience in government.
“By contrast, President Biden is uniquely qualified for the times we find ourselves in, and his experience both as Vice President and U.S. Senator prepare him well to serve as our commander in chief. History shows that Congress has long respected and taken seriously the requirement of civilian control and provided a waiver for only the most exceptional circumstances. I do not believe we find ourselves in such circumstances today.
“This is not a vote about the qualifications of General Austin -- that is for the Senate to decide. This vote is a decision over whether or not the law’s requirement for a seven-year cooling-off period will remain a meaningful constraint in the future. If it becomes a mere formality in nature, it will no longer serve any meaningful purpose in ensuring civilian control of the military. It is not insignificant for Congress to waive this requirement twice in four years after having done so only twice over a period of nearly seven decades. The principle of civilian control of the military is far too important for our democracy to justify supporting this waiver under the circumstances confronting the nation at this moment.” - Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02)
Congressman Golden is a member of the House Armed Service Committee, where he sits on the Tactical Air and Land Forces and Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittees. He served as a Marine in Afghanistan and Iraq.