Presumed president-elect Joe Biden is selecting retired four-star Army general Lloyd Austin to be his Secretary of Defense. Austin would be the first black Secretary of Defense if confirmed by the Senate.
Austin, 67, has not been officially announced as Biden’s pick, but four sources close to the matter told Associated Press that he will be nominated.
Austin led the military’s Central Command under former-President Obama.
He retired from the Army in 2016, and because his service was within the past seven years, he will need a congressional waiver to fill the Secretary of Defense position.
Austin graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1975 and served 41 years before retiring. He would be the third career military officer to serve as Secretary of Defense, behind James Mattis – President Donald Trump’s first Secretary of Defense during 2017-2019 – and George C. Marshall, who served as President Harry Truman’s Secretary of Defense during 1950-1951.
Biden was also reportedly considering Michele Flournoy and Jeh Johnson for the top Pentagon spot.
As a former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy during Obama’s administration, Flournoy was considered the favorite by a number of defense experts for her experience. She was considered instrumental in shaping the Obama administration’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.
Flournoy would have been the first female Secretary of Defense if confirmed.
Johnson formerly served as the Pentagon’s general counsel prior to running the Homeland Security Department for the Obama administration. He was a key player in the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prevented gay service members from openly serving in the military.