Lloyd J. Austin III (2021- )
Lloyd James Austin III, a former four-star general with a long career in the US military, became the first African American secretary of defense when the US Senate confirmed his appointment by a vote of 93 to 2 on January 22, 2021.
Austin was born in Mobile, Alabama, on August 8, 1953, and raised in Thomasville, Georgia. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1975. He was commissioned in the 3rd Infantry Division as a second lieutenant in Germany. Throughout his long military career, Austin served in a variety of assignments, including as Assistant Division Commander for the 3rd Infantry Division and Commanding General for the 10th Mountain Division.
In between his postings, Austin received a master's degree in counselor education from Auburn University in 1986 and a master's in business administration from Webster University in 1989.
He joined the staff at the Pentagon in 1999 and was eventually appointed as the Assistant Division Commander for Manoeuvre, 3rd Infantry Division, where he helped lead the division’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. He was later awarded a Silver Star for his efforts during the invasion. Austin became Commanding General of the 18th Airborne Corps, and during 2008, he was the second highest-ranking commander in Iraq when he commanded the multi-national corps which directed 150,000 joint and coalition forces deployed in Iraq. After serving as the Commanding General of all US forces in Iraq until 2012, Austin became the Army Vice Chief of Staff. That year, President Obama nominated him to become the Commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), where he oversaw all major US military operations in the Middle East and Central and South Asia.
In 2016, Austin retired from military service and entered the private sector as a board director of Raytheon Technologies and Tenet Healthcare. He also became a partner at Pine Island Capital, an investment company.
On December 7, 2020, President Joseph Biden nominated Austin to serve as secretary of defense. Austin received a waiver from the US Congress, exempting him from the 7-year waiting period after retirement from active-duty military service. He became the first African American secretary of defense.