WASHINGTON, D.C. (WVEC) -- He's one step closer to leading America's military. President elect Donald Trump's pick to be Secretary of Defense has cleared a key first hurdle.

By an overwhelming 81-to-17 vote, the Senate today approved a waiver that will allow retired Marine Corps General James Mattis to get the job, even though he's only been out of uniform for three and a half years, and, not the seven required by current law.

In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mattis left little doubt that much work lies ahead.

"I know that the senators of this committee are well aware of the many global security challenges we face," he said. "We face each day a world awash in change. Our country is still at war in Afghanistan and our troops are fighting against ISIS and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and elsewhere."

He weighed in a host of military related issues, including the current tense times the U.S. faces with Russia, and the intelligence community's conclusion that Moscow meddled in the presidential election.

"Mad Dog," as Mattis is called, said he has no plans to roll back advances made by women in the ranks, saying "I've never cared much about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with."

He is well remembered here in Hampton Roads, for his time leading U.S. Joint Force Command.

"He is a man of the highest integrity. He is a warrior," said retired rear admiral Craig Quigley. "He is a scholar. He is a completely dedicated person to the task at hand."

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine questioned Mattis about the need for a Congressional vote on the war against ISIS. Mattis replied, "Congressional oversight, appropriations, authorizations are a critical part of civilian control of the military."

The House of Representatives will consider Mattis' nomination tomorrow.