Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has named a U.S. Air Force brigadier general as the new Pentagon press secretary.
“Today, I named Brigadier General Patrick S. Ryder as the next Pentagon press secretary. Pat will fill a critical role, leading our efforts to provide timely, accurate information to the media, and through the media to the American people,” Austin said in a statement on Thursday.
Ryder currently serves as the top public affairs officer for the Air Force and Space Force. Prior to that he was the top spokesman for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and served as the spokesman for Austin when he was the head of U.S. Central Command from 2013 to 2016.
Ryder will become the first Pentagon press secretary to serve while still in military uniform since then-Rear Admiral John Kirby served under Defense Secretaries Chuck Hagel and Ash Carter from 2013 to 2015.
Upon taking office, Carter made clear to officials that he wanted a nonuniformed spokesman and soon replaced Kirby with a new Pentagon press secretary. Kirby retired from the military in 2015 and has since served as State Department spokesman under the Obama administration and Pentagon press secretary and White House National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications.
The military is an apolitical organization, which could cause potential problems should Ryder be asked to expand upon a political position. Civilians control the military in the United States, with rules established by Congress to ensure that secretaries of defense spend at least seven years out of military uniform before taking office.
Exceptions have been made with congressional approval, however, and lawmakers recently have waived that requirement for former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Austin, the current secretary.
CNN first reported the decision to appoint Ryder on Wednesday.