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Biden will likely appoint retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as his secretary of defense

As someone who knows the cost of war firsthand, the retired Army General, many believe, would be the best man for the job.

Biden will likely appoint retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as his secretary of defense
Image Source: Senate Armed Services Committee Holds Hearing On Military Operations To Counter ISIL. WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 16. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President-elect Joe Biden has reportedly selected his secretary of defense, sources state. He is likely to appoint retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the former commander of US Central Command, to the post on Tuesday, CNN reports. If he is confirmed by the Senate, Gen. Austin will be the first Black man to lead the Department of Defense. Sources claim Biden reached out to the General over the weekend to offer the job, and he gladly accepted. The selection will make the retired Army leader one of the most prominent members of Biden's Cabinet and incoming administration as he would be in control of the nation's largest government agency, commanding troops around the world and managing the Pentagon.



Though Austin was not the first pick among influential members of Biden's own party on Capitol Hill, the President-elect chose to go ahead with his nomination. Notably, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Representative Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington, claimed that he believed Michele Flournoy, another candidate, would "hands down" be the most qualified person for the job. "I certainly communicated to the Biden people that I think Michele Flournoy is hands down the best qualified person for the job," he told reporters, adding, "That does not mean that she's the only person that could do the job."



The General has several years of experience working with the Pentagon and has also worked closely with President-elect Biden in the past. For instance, when Biden was Vice President, he worked with Austin in a range of positions, such as when he was commander of CENTCOM from 2013 to 2016. During this period, they had numerous discussions on a wide variety of issues including the Middle East and Central and South Asia. The Army General also served as vice chief of staff of the Army and commanding general of United States forces in Iraq during Biden's Vice Presidency. A source stated, "They've known each other for a long time. There's a comfort level. The historic nature of the pick is something Biden is excited about. Especially given the history of the US military being barrier breakers in a lot of areas."



In order to take up the civilian post, Gen. Austin would require a Congressional waiver to be confirmed. This is because, as noted, he retired from active-duty service only four years ago. As per federal regulations, seven years of retirement from active duty are required before taking on the role. While such waivers are rare, they are not impossible. For example, in 2017, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis received a waiver from Congress in order to serve as President Donald Trump's defense secretary. "There has been engagement with people on the Hill about a waiver," a source stated. "[The Biden-Harris transition team is] hopeful leaders of the committees and members responsible for bringing that forward will support that."



Should the Senate approve his appointment, Austin will have to juggle calls to cut defense spending, as progressive Democrats in Congress want, while still managing to fund innovative future technology. He will additionally have to prioritize the challenges posed by Russia and China and all maintain military deterrence against Iran, North Korea, and ISIS. Nonetheless, as someone who knows the cost of war from firsthand experience, there is no one better than the General to take up the job. The source affirmed, "[Austin] knows the Pentagon inside and out [and would even be] an excellent person to run logistics on vaccine distribution. [He also] knows the cost of war firsthand, having informed families who have lost loved ones."


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