Jun 9, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Senate confirms first black service chief in U.S. history

Gen. Charles Brown testifies

Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. testifies during a Senate Armed Services hearing on May 7. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Senate unanimously confirmed Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown Jr. as Air Force chief of staff in a historic vote presided over by Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Brown, the commander of Pacific Air Forces, is the first African American chief of a military service branch in U.S. history and will sit on the elite Joint Chiefs of Staff.

  • Gen. Colin Powell, an African American four-star general who served in multiple administrations, served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993.

The big picture: In the midst of mass upheaval over the killing of George Floyd and the treatment of black Americans by police, Brown reflected in a viral video message last week about his position as one of only two African American four-star generals currently serving in the U.S. military.

  • "Here’s what I’m thinking about: I’m thinking about how full I am with emotion — not just for George Floyd, but the many African Americans that have suffered the same fate as George Floyd.”
  • "I'm thinking about ... the equality expressed in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution that I’ve sworn my adult life to support and defend. I’m thinking about a history of racial issues and my own experiences that didn’t always sing of liberty and equality.”
  • "I'm thinking about a history of racial issues and my own experiences that didn't always sing of liberty and equality. I'm thinking about living in two worlds, each with their own perspective and views."
  • "I’m thinking about wearing the same flight suit, with the same wings on my chest as my peers, and then being questioned by another military member: ‘Are you a pilot?’"

What's next: Brown will be tasked with getting the Space Force program up and running, the New York Times reports.

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