Biden picks retired US general to be first Black secretary of defense
US President-elect Joe Biden has chosen retired military general Lloyd Austin to be secretary of defense. If confirmed by the US Senate, Austin would be the first Black person to lead the Pentagon.
Biden selected Austin over the longtime front-runner candidate, Michele Flournoy, a former senior Pentagon official and Biden supporter who would have been the first woman to serve as defense secretary.
As a four-star general in the US Army, the 67-year-old Austin is likely to face opposition from some in Congress who believe civilians should control the country’s military.
Austin would need to obtain a congressional waiver to serve
as defense secretary. US federal laws require a retired military official to wait
seven years before serving as the Pentagon chief.
Although many previous US defense secretaries have served briefly in the military, only two — George Marshall and James Mattis — have been career military officers.
Biden and Austin have worked closely in the past. Biden, when he was the vice president, worked with Austin, when he was commander of United States Central Command, or CENTCOM, from 2013 to 2016.
African Americans make up 16% of service personnel. However, the African Americans serve disproportionately in the lower ranks and few have achieved high command positions.