[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, met virtually with President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of the Department of Defense, General Lloyd Austin. During the meeting, Blumenthal raised his longstanding belief in the importance of civilian control of the military and Austin shared his commitment to this constitutional principle and to ensuring that civilian voices are elevated within the Pentagon.
Blumenthal and Austin also discussed the continuing threat of domestic terrorism and issues relating to the violent insurrection at the Capitol last week, including concerns about white supremacy in the military and the delayed response of the National Guard to the attack. Blumenthal is a co-sponsor of legislation led by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Tom Carper (D-DE) that would transfer authority of the District of Columbia National Guard from the President to the Mayor of Washington, DC.
Blumenthal and Austin also talked about the need to harden our defenses against cyberattacks following the SolarWinds breach, support for veterans who received other-than-honorable discharges after experiencing PTSD or other trauma, and the role of the military in combating climate change.
“I have immense respect for General Austin and enjoyed a serious, substantive conversation with him today. I was gratified to hear General Austin share his commitment to the core constitutional principle of civilian control of the military. I appreciated hearing General Austin recount several personal experiences that underscore this commitment, including building close partnerships with civilian leaders at the Pentagon and working with new governments elsewhere in the world to strengthen their democracies. I was also very happy to hear General Austin express his desire to work closely with Congress.”
“We discussed at length last week’s violent attack on the Capitol and the ongoing threat of domestic terrorism fueled by white supremacy and extremism. General Austin agreed to cooperate in any investigation regarding the use of National Guard and lack of coordination between federal and local agencies, which will be done by Congress and perhaps an independent commission. We also discussed the need to investigate the extent to which white supremacy and extremism have infiltrated the military, a matter of grave concern to our national security.”
“General Austin also committed to reviewing the authority of the DC National Guard, which unfairly and unusually rests with the President and not Washington DC’s chief executive. I look forward to working with him on these issues moving forward. They are not going away.”
“Of course, I couldn’t let General Austin go without sharing my deep pride in Connecticut’s defense manufacturing workforce and seeking his commitment to stabilizing and strengthening our industrial base.”