Dec 9, 2020
Joe Biden Introduces Gen. Lloyd Austin as Defense Secretary Nominee Transcript December 9
Joe Biden announced retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as his nominee for Defense Secretary on December 9. Read the transcript of the briefing with their speeches here.
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President-Elect Joe Biden: (04:00)
Please be seated. Good afternoon. Today it’s my great honor and it really is an honor to add to my NASA security team leader of extraordinary courage, character, experience, and accomplishment. And a man who I’ve seen some of the more interesting parts of the world with when I was vice president. Someone with whom I have worked closely for many years and I’ve seen perform to the highest standards under intense pressure. Someone who I hold in the highest personal regard as a man of great decency and a man of dignity.
President-Elect Joe Biden: (04:41)
In my judgment, there’s no question that he is the right person for this job at the right moment, leading the Department of Defense at this moment in our nation’s history. He’s led major coalitions of allies and partners to fight terrorism and it took some real diplomatic capacity to get that done. He’s overseeing some of the most complex logistical efforts ever undertaken by the United States military. Helped end a war and literally bring tens of thousands of troops home safely.
President-Elect Joe Biden: (05:15)
He’s loved by the men and women of the armed forces, feared by our adversaries, known and respected by our allies. And he shares my deeply held belief in the values of America’s alliances. And he is just as committed as I am to rebuilding and modernizing those alliance from the Asia-Pacific to Europe and around the world. Through sheer determination and extraordinary skill, he’s been breaking down barriers and blazing a trail forward in this nation for many years now, for more than 40 years. And he has a long way to go and going to do it again.
President-Elect Joe Biden: (05:58)
And so today I’m honored to nominate former General Lloyd Austin as the 28th Secretary of Defense. I want to thank you, General. You’re a friend, but I want to thank you General Austin for once more stepping forward to serve your nation. This is not a post he sought, but I sought him. And I want to thank you and your family for once again sharing you with our country and thanks Charlene.
President-Elect Joe Biden: (06:28)
Today, I know how proud they all are of you, all four of your children, your older sisters and your brother. I knew the reason why you’re a good man, you had to have sisters to raise you along the way, right? I know mine did me and she’s much younger. And your incredible wife, Charlene and I mean that sincerely. Tomorrow, I’m told that Jill and Charlene are going to spend some time together sending off packages to our soldiers abroad.
President-Elect Joe Biden: (07:01)
She and Jill are both passionate about supporting military spouses and families. And I know they’ll be powerful advocates for that community together. And they’re going to both be working at the White House and the defense department together to make sure our families are [inaudible 00:07:19] I said before General, American only has many obligation, one sacred obligation to care and equip those we send the war and care for their families when they’re gone and to care for them when they come home and their families.
President-Elect Joe Biden: (07:33)
I got to know General Austin during my early days as vice president. President Obama had charged me with overseeing the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom and ensuring the orderly withdrawal of our forces and equipment from Iraq. General Austin was with me on the ground, not just for meetings with troops or for military strategy sessions. He was there when I was working with Iraq political leaders, I watched his political skill and how he dealt with them. They respected him across the board.
President-Elect Joe Biden: (08:03)
With them. They respected him across the board. When I met with the leaders of our coalition partners, the same thing. He was there during one particularly memorable incident when we were at a meeting at the ambassador’s residence in the Green Zone. The insurgents launched a rocket attack on the House. Of course, General Austin, it was just another day at the office. He just sat there and kept right on going, so I sat there and kept right on going and wondered, “What in the hell are they doing?” But he’s cool under fire, inspiring the same and all those around him. That’s Lloyd Austin.
President-Elect Joe Biden: (08:44)
He was the person President Obama and I entrusted with the incredible task of bringing home America’s forces and redeploying our military equipment safely out of Iraq. It was the largest logistical operation undertaken by the army in 60 years. Getting it done required much more than the military know-how. General Austin was a diplomat. It was not an easy task. He built relationships with our Iraqi counterparts and with our coalition partners. He was a statesman representing our country with a skill at tables that I’ve sat with him with foreign leaders, and I wondered whether or not he was from the State Department or from the Defense Department, both military and civilians. I’m not exaggerating. He has a way about him, and always, above all, he’s looked out for his people. That’s why he was known as the soldiers’ leader.
President-Elect Joe Biden: (09:42)
In this time in the United States Army, Lloyd Austin met every single challenge with extraordinary skill and profound personal decency. He’s the definition of duty, honor, country. At every step, he challenged the institutions that he loves to grow more inclusive and more diversive. He was the 200th person ever to attain the rank of a four-star general, but only the sixth African-American to ever do that. He was the first African-American general officer to lead the Army Corps in combat. He was the first African-American to command an entire theater of war, and, if confirmed, he’ll be the first African-American at the helm of the Defense Department in well over 200 years, another milestone, and he’s a barrier-breaking career, has been like this throughout his career.
President-Elect Joe Biden: (10:36)
Lloyd Austin retired from the military service more than four years ago, but the law states that an officer must have left the service seven years before becoming secretary of defense. There’s a good reason for this law that I fully understand and respect. I would not be asking for this exception if I did not believe this moment in our history didn’t call for it. It does call for it and if I didn’t have the faith I have in Lloyd Austin to ask for it. I believe in the importance of civilian control of the military, so does the Secretary-designate Austin. He’ll be bolstered by a strong and empowered civilian sector and senior officers, senior officials, I should say, working to shape DOD’s policies and ensure that our defense policies are accountable to the American people. Civilian military dynamic, that dynamic itself has been under great stress the past four years. I know that Secretary-designee Austin is going to work tirelessly to get it back on track. I have personally worked with this man. I’ve seen him lead American fighting forces on the field of battle. I’ve also watched him faithfully carry out the orders of the civilian leadership of this nation. There’s no doubt in my mind, not any doubt whatsoever, whether this nominee will honor, respect, and on a day-to-day basis breathe life into the preeminent principle of civilian leadership over military matters in our nation. I know this man. I know his respect for our constitution. I know his respect for our system of government. Just as they did for Secretary Jim Mattis, I asked the Congress to grant a waiver for Secretary-designee Austin.
President-Elect Joe Biden: (12:27)
His many strengths and his intimate knowledge of the Department of Defense and our government I think are uniquely suited for the challenges we face now, the crisis we face now. He is the person we need at this moment, in my opinion. Given the urgent threat and challenges of our nation’s forces, he should be confirmed swiftly. We need his experience in large scale logistical operations to help support the swift and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. We need his experience building and managing relationships, engaging in diplomacy with our partners to help rebuild America’s alliance and strengthen our shared security, and we need his firsthand knowledge of the immeasurable costs of war and the burden of places on our service members and their families to help bring to an end the forever wars and ensure that the use of force is the last tool in our toolbox, the last tool resorted to to protect our national security, not the first.
President-Elect Joe Biden: (13:35)
We need his deep understanding of the Pentagon to help reform the Defense Department. We need his personal experience helping inform our efforts to ensure that our armed forces reflect the full strength and diversity of our nation, that black, Latino, Asian American, Native American, women, men, LGBT, service members are treated with dignity and respect at a time when, listen to this, more 40% of our active duty forces are people of color. It’s long past time that the department’s leadership reflects that diversity, and we need his in-depth understanding of what it takes to deter threats wherever they arise and to defend the American people, our vital interests, and our allies from harm just as he did when he was designated to lead the strategy together with the dozen of partner nations to ultimately crush ISIS. If you don’t think that required some diplomatic skill putting that group together, then you don’t understand what was going on. He did a heck of a job.
President-Elect Joe Biden: (14:48)
Threats we face today are not the same as those we faced 10 years ago or even 5 years ago. We must prepare to meet the challenges for the future, of the future, not just keeping fighting wars of the past. We must build a foreign policy that leads with diplomacy, revitalizes state department, revitalizes our alliances, putting American leadership back at the table and rallying the world to meet global threats of our security, from pandemics to climate change, from nuclear proliferation to the refugee crisis.
President-Elect Joe Biden: (15:25)
As part of our diverse national security leadership team, Lloyd Austin knows how to do this work. Before I turn the podium over to the Secretary-designee Austin, I want to end on a note of personal privilege. As a leader, General Austin has always followed the advice given to him by his first platoon sergeant. As my son, Beau Biden, who was a major in the military, I said, “Now your a field-grade officer.” He said, “I don’t have any illusions, Dad.” He said, “I know who runs the United States Army. Platoon sergeants.” Here’s what his platoon sergeant told him. ” If you focus on your people, take… ”
President-Elect Joe Biden: (16:03)
“If you focus on your people, take care of them, get out in front and lead them, they’ll refuse to let you fail.” That’s why he’s inspired so many young people who work for him and give their very best to live up to his example of leadership. Including for a time, a young lawyer serving a year in Iraq as a captain with his Delaware National Guard unit, my son Beau Biden. I know how proud Beau was to serve on the general’s staff, Gen. Austin’s staff. And I know that under your leadership, General, the Department of Defense will advance the security of the American people in ways that always, always, always honor our highest values and ideals. So I thank you again, General. May God bless America, and may God protect our troops, and now I’d like to turn it over to Gen. Austin, the secretary-designee for the Department of Defense.
Lloyd Austin: (17:01)
Mr. President-elect and Madam Vice President-elect Harris, thank you for your trust and your confidence and for the opportunity to serve as the 28th Secretary of Defense. If confirmed by the United States Senate, it will be my sincere honor and privilege to return to the department and to lead our great service members and civilians in accomplishing the mission of ensuring our nation’s security. Back in 1877, a young man from the small town of Thomasville, Georgia, Henry Ossian Flipper, became the first African American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point. After his commissioning, he was assigned to one of the Army’s all-Black regiments. He became the first non-white officer to lead the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry.
Lloyd Austin: (18:42)
So fast forward to today, nearly 150 years later, another native son of Thomasville, Georgia stands before you as the Secretary of Defense-designate. Now, many people have paved the way for me and countless others over the years to include Henry O. Flipper. I am supremely grateful to all of them for their courage, for their determination, and for the example that they set throughout. They include the Tuskegee Airman, and the Montfort Point Marines, and many others. Throughout my career I’ve also been incredibly fortunate to benefit from the support and the mentorship of exceptional leaders like Gen. Colin Powell, and Adm. Mike Mullen, and Gen. Johnnie Wilson, and my old platoon sergeant who you heard the president-elect just talk about.
Lloyd Austin: (19:55)
You know, I was a brand new second lieutenant, and Sgt. 1st Class Fox Ballard took me in and taught me the way of the world, so I owe him and many others a great deal. As Sir Isaac Newton famously said, “If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” I’ve been very fortunate to have the love and support of my family as well. My mother and father, who was a postal worker who along with a number of my uncles and other relatives spent time in the military and that inspired my own desire to serve. I’ve also enjoyed the strong support of my brother and four older sisters. Four older sisters. And most importantly, most importantly, my bride Charlene, who I’ve been truly lucky to have by my side all these years, and I am so grateful for her enduring love and for her support.
Lloyd Austin: (21:11)
You know, I spent much of my military career tackling tough issues and formidable adversaries in challenging parts of the world. And President-elect Biden, as you mentioned, we’ve worked closely together on some tough issues, and we’ve gotten to know each other under some intense and high-pressures situations. Sir, you can expect that as secretary of defense, that I will give you the same direct and unvarnished counsel that I did back then. I understand the important role of the Department of Defense and the role that it plays in maintaining stability and deterring aggression, and defending and supporting and critical alliances around the world, including in the Asia Pacific, in Europe, and around the world.
Lloyd Austin: (22:06)
I fervently believe that, as you’ve said before sir, that America is strongest when it works with its allies. Over the years I’ve worked hand in hand with our diplomatic colleagues and partners around the globe and witnessed firsthand what we’re able to accomplish together. So if confirmed, I look forward to resuming this important work.
Lloyd Austin: (22:39)
My career has taught me something else equally fundamental to who we are as a nation. When I concluded my military service four years ago, I hung up my uniform for the last time and went from being Gen. Lloyd Austin, to Lloyd Austin. It is an important distinction and one that I make with utmost seriousness and sincerity. So I come to this role, this new role, as a civilian leader with military experience, to be sure, but also with a deep appreciation and reverence for the prevailing wisdom of civilian control of our military. I recognize that being a member of the president’s cabinet requires a different perspective and unique responsibilities from a career in uniform, and I intend to keep this at the forefront of my mind. I look forward to surrounding myself with experienced and capable civilian appointees and career civil servants who will enable healthy civil military relations grounded in meaningful civilian-
Lloyd Austin: (24:03)
… relations grounded in meaningful civilian oversight. As Secretary of Defense, my priority will always, always be the men and women, military and civilian, who make up the department and their families. And I’ve seen what they’re capable of. Great Americans like your son sir, Beau, and also our future first lady, Dr. Biden in her tireless work for military families.
Lloyd Austin: (24:41)
As the President-elect said, Beau was one of the military lawyers on my staff in Iraq. And we stayed in touch and saw each other a few times after he returned home. And as you too can attest Madam Vice President-elect, Beau was a very special person and a true Patriot, and a good friend to all who knew him. Over the past four decades. I’ve witnessed our service members and civilians, selflessness and patriotism, and the extraordinary lengths that they will go to in support of the mission, and in support of one another. And I could not be more proud of them and their families. And if confirmed, it will be the honor of my lifetime to lead them again with honor and integrity. Thank you again Mr. President-elect and Madam Vice President-elect for this opportunity, and for your trust and confidence in me. May God bless and keep safe all those currently serving in harm’s way. And may God continue to bless the United States of America. Thank you.
President-Elect Joe Biden: (26:27)
Good afternoon, President-elect Biden and I will take off as at a consequential moment for our country. Even as we work to contain this pandemic and responsibly open our economy, we also need to lead the Defense Department into the future, rebuild and renew global alliances and partnerships, and make sure the United States is prepared to address new threats and new challenges, from cyber to climate. The fundamental responsibility of our administration and any administration, is keeping the American people safe and secure. My whole career has been about keeping Americans safe. In the United States Senate I have served on the Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees. I’ve traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan and the Middle East, where I’ve seen the extraordinary training, commitment and heroism of our service members. And proudly represented California the state with the largest number of active duty military, and veterans in our country. And I am absolutely confident that General Lloyd Austin is the right person to lead the Department of Defense, at this critical moment.
President-Elect Joe Biden: (27:49)
We need a proven leader to help address this pandemic. Someone with the experience to help make sure safe and effective vaccines are distributed equitably to all. A leader who will honor the service and sacrifice of those who wear the uniform of the United States. Provide for their wellbeing, and make sure they and their families are treated with the dignity and respect they have earned. And a leader who recognizes that our service members represent America around the world, and must uphold our nation’s highest values and ideals. General Austin is that leader. As the President-elect noted, this is a milestone nomination. A seasoned highly decorated and trail blazing commander. General Austin reflects the very best of our nation. And President-elect Biden and I will work closely with him, and our entire team of national security and foreign policy leaders, to make sure the United States of America is safer and more secure than ever before.
President-Elect Joe Biden: (29:07)
Throughout America’s history, the United States military has been a home for generations of young men and women, dedicated to serving our country, and General Austin is among them. With this nomination, he will continue his service, strengthening not only America’s national security, but our role as a partner to allies around the world. And we couldn’t be more proud. Thank you.
Mr President-elect are [crosstalk 00: 05:50]. When is the Attorney General nominee coming?