Defense

Trump administration official Norquist sworn in as acting Pentagon chief

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A Trump administration official on Wednesday was sworn in to lead the Pentagon until President Biden’s official pick for the role is confirmed. 

Former deputy Defense secretary David Norquist took over as acting Defense secretary until retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin is confirmed by the Senate. 

“At 12:01 p.m., Jan. 20, David L. Norquist assumed the duties of Acting Secretary of Defense. In his capacity as acting secretary, Norquist will maintain continuity and readiness of the Department until a defense secretary is confirmed,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

In a statement released later on Wednesday, Norquist hailed the peaceful transition of power and praised the roughly 28,000 National Guard and active duty military members in Washington, D.C. to assist local law enforcement in Biden’s inauguration security.

“More broadly, the Department of Defense remains ready to provide forces that deter war and protect the security of our nation. We look forward to seamlessly onboarding the incoming Administration so America may maintain its strategic advantage and vast partnerships.”

Norquist takes over the role of acting Defense secretary from Christopher Miller, who has been in the position since November, shortly after Trump fired former secretary of Defense Mark Esper following the presidential election.

Miller, who told reporters last week that he “cannot wait to leave this job,” officially left his post at noon with the outgoing Trump administration.

In his short time in office, Miller was accused by the incoming Biden administration of slow walking or stalling transition efforts. He also carried out several controversial, last-minute orders from Trump, including lowering the number of service members in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Norquist, who has served as the deputy Defense secretary since July 2019, also served as the Pentagon comptroller starting in June 2017. He will vacate his newest role if Austin is confirmed by the Senate.

Austin, who would be the nation’s first Black secretary of Defense, must first win a waiver from both the House and Senate before he can be confirmed. The waiver is required under a 1947 law that stipulates officers can’t run the Pentagon unless they have been out of uniform for at least seven years. The rule is meant to ensure civilian control of the military. Austin retired in 2016. 

The law has been waived twice before, most recently for James Mattis in 2017.

— Updated 5:03 p.m.

Tags biden administration James Mattis Lloyd Austin Mark Esper Secretary of Defense
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