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General Charles Q. Brown, the first Black man to lead any military branch, will become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after the U.S. Senate confirmed his nomination on Wednesday.
Consisting of leaders from each of the military branches, the Joint Chiefs of Staff acts as military advisers to the President, Secretary of Defense and National Security Council.
Brown isn’t the first Black man appointed to the role of chairman. Colin Powell holds that honor.
Still, the move is historic. With Lloyd Austin being the first Black secretary of defense, Brown’s promotion to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff means two Black men will hold the top two Pentagon positions for the first time in U.S. history.
A career fighter pilot, Brown became the first Black commander of the Pacific Air Forces before being promoted even further to the Air Force’s first Black chief of staff.
President Biden nominated Brown back in May, but Democrats in the Senate have failed to confirm hundreds of military promotions and appointments because of one Republican.
Republican Senator claims victory after CQ Brown confirmation
Normally, the Senate is able to confirm hundreds of military appointments at once, but Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama has placed a hold on confirmations in protest of the Pentagon’s policy on abortions.
After the Supreme Court struck down abortion rights nationwide, the Pentagon announced it would help support service members who must travel out of state to obtain an abortion.
Defense Sec. Austin defended the move, claiming military members don’t get to choose which state they move to, but Sen. Tuberville isn’t satisified.
“Senator Tuberville is forcing us to face his obstruction head on,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said. “I want to make clear to my Republican colleagues — this cannot continue.”
After months of refusing to cave to Tuberville’s demands, Schumer decided to hold individual confirmation votes for three people, including CQ Brown.
“Let’s do one at a time or change the policy back,” Tuberville said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote. “Let’s vote on it.”
“Senator Tuberville is using them as pawns,” Schumer said.
In a 83-11 vote, CQ Brown’s nomination sailed through the Senate. He’ll replace outgoing chairman Gen. Mark Milley when he retires at the end of the month.
According to a senior administration official who spoke with the Associated Press, Biden chose Brown because of work to modernize the U.S. fleet of aircraft, his experience shaping defense efforts against China and his involvement in equipping Ukraine in its defense against the Russian invasion.
Yet a day meant to honor a Black military leader quickly turned into a political battle between mostly white lawmakers.
“We called them out, and they blinked,” Tuberville told reporters after the vote.
Meanwhile, Defense Sec. Austin accused Tuberville of endangering national defense.
“Senator Tuberville’s continued hold on hundreds of our nation’s military leaders endangers our national security and military readiness. It is well past time to confirm the over 300 other military nominees,” Austin said.