WILMINGTON, Del. — Today, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement after meeting virtually with Lloyd Austin, President-elect Biden’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Defense:

“Earlier today, I spoke at length with Lloyd Austin, President-elect Biden’s nominee to serve as the next Secretary of Defense, a cabinet-level position leading the largest federal agency that has been vacant since November. Austin served our country with distinction for 41 years, with combat experience in the Middle East, commanding our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He enjoys the trust and confidence of the President-elect, and he understands the national security challenges facing the United States and the need to restore our relationships with our allies to deter our adversaries.

“During our discussion, Austin assured me that he has a deep respect for civilian control of the military, and that he intends to take steps, if confirmed, to demonstrate that. I intend to support a waiver for Austin to serve as Secretary of Defense.

“At a time when our country continues to struggle to fulfill its promise of equality and racial justice, it is also important to emphasize the historic nature of Austin’s nomination. African Americans have served our country honorably and bravely throughout U.S. history, and Austin will be the first African American to lead the Pentagon, a milestone that is long overdue. His nomination inspires all of us to continue our efforts to promote an equal, just, and secure society for all Americans.    

“The United States also continues to face national security threats from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and international terrorism, and it is critically important that the Senate move to confirm Lloyd Austin and fill this position as quickly as possible so he can work with the President-elect and the national security team to develop comprehensive strategies to respond to these challenges. I look forward to supporting Austin’s nomination and working with him and other senior national security officials to advance our values and interests, deter our adversaries, and restore American leadership on the global stage."