President-elect Joe Biden plans to appoint retired General Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense. This is reported by a number of American media outlets. If approved by the Senate, Austin will become the first African American to lead the Pentagon.
Austin is also the first black general to command an army division in action and the first to command a theater of war. Austin’s nomination could be made as early as Tuesday morning, media reported.
Lloyd Austin, who led US Central Command before retiring in 2016, has become one of the top candidates for the post in recent days. Michelle Flournoy was initially viewed as a possible head of the US defense department. Her name was not mentioned by Joe Biden during the announcement of key members of the national security team two weeks ago.
“General Austin is a southerner, has an impeccable reputation given his military career, and could be an outstanding secretary of the Department of Defense,” Congressman Benny Thompson told POLITICO.
Austin himself, like the representative of Biden’s transition team, declined to comment.
Biden and Austin met during the Obama administration. Austin was the last commander of US forces in Iraq. In this position, he played a key role in the force build-up that began in 2007 and was also responsible for their withdrawal in 2011.
Austin’s appointment can be problematic. According to the law, the head of the Pentagon must be in retirement seven years to qualify for the post. Otherwise, he will need special permission from Congress to become Secretary of Defense. President Trump’s first Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, received a similar permission.
Austin’s candidacy has also met with criticism from some national security experts.
“From a civil-military perspective, this seems like a terrible idea,” Rose Brooks, a Georgetown University professor and former Pentagon official who wrote an article in The New York Times, tweeted for the appointment of a woman. “Appointing a recently retired general, however excellent he may be, to a top civilian position in the Defense Department is the worst signal.”
At the same time, Biden’s team considers Austin a safe choice, a former Defense Department official close to Biden’s transition team told POLITICO. He added that a retired general is considered a good soldier who will carry out the policies of the president-elect.
Lloyd Austin retired in 2016 after 41 years of service. He joined the board of directors of Raytheon Technologies, one of the Pentagon’s largest contractors. He also serves on the board of Nucor, America’s largest steelmaker, and the medical company Tenet. Austin also serves on the board of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.