National Security & Defense

Biden to Tap Army General Lloyd Austin for Secretary of Defense

Army General Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command, briefs the media on U.S. Central Command’s role in defeating ISIL during a press briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., October 17, 2014. (Master Sergeant Adrian Cadiz/USAF)

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to select retired four-star Army general Lloyd Austin for secretary of defense, multiple outlets reported Monday evening.

Austin, 67, would become the first black leader of the Pentagon if confirmed by the Senate. Biden selected Austin over Michele Flournoy, a former senior pentagon official under President Obama, four people familiar with the decision told the Associated Press.

Biden has been under pressure in recent days to select a black secretary of defense and also considered Jeh Johnson, a former pentagon general counsel and secretary of homeland defense, Politico reported.

Austin retired from the Army in 2016 after a 41-year career during which he became the first black general to command troops in combat. Since he has not been out of uniform for the mandated seven years, he would require a special congressional waiver to serve as secretary of defense.

General James Mattis was granted the waiver to serve as President Trump’s first secretary of defense and some lawmakers have expressed reservations about granting another waiver due to the implications for civil-military relations.

Biden got to know Austin when the general assumed control of the U.S. Central Command in 2013, where he oversaw the rollback of ISIS in Syria. Obama praised his “character and competence” upon his retirement.

After retiring from the Army, Austin went on to serve on the board of defense contractor Raytheon Technologies — a career choice that may alienate progressive lawmakers wary of confirming a secretary of defense with ties to the weapons industry. He also sits on the board of Nucor, the largest U.S. steel manufacturer, and the healthcare company Tenet.

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