President-elect Joe Biden is set to choose retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to be Secretary of Defense. If confirmed, Austin would be the first Black man to lead the Department of Defense. Austin is the former commander of US Central Command.
As Secretary of Defense, Austin would lead the nation’s largest government agency, commanding troops around the world. “He is a true and tested soldier and leader,” Biden said. “I’ve spent countless hours with him, in the field and in the White House Situation Room. I’ve sought his advice, seen his command, and admired his calm and his character. He is the definition of a patriot.”
Austin developed a personal relationship with Biden’s son Beau while they were both deployed. “They developed a deep relationship and even saw each other after Beau returned from his deployment,” said an official familiar with Biden’s decision. “He’s a uniquely qualified individual,” said Dana Pittard, a retired two-star Army general who served under Austin in Iraq.
Austin would require a congressional waiver to overcome a law that states that no individual can become defense secretary within seven years of serving in the military. The restriction is designed to create separation between the civilian defense secretary and the generals they must oversee and ensure that civilians are in charge of the Defense Department.