Biden picks retired General Lloyd Austin to run Pentagon

 

President-elect Joe Biden has selected Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as Secretary of Defence

If confirmed, Austin would be the first Black person to lead the Pentagon.

In picking Austin, the president-elect has chosen a barrier-breaking former four-star officer who was the first Black General to command an Army division in combat and the first to oversee an entire theater of operations.

Austin, who also ran U.S. Central Command before retiring in 2016, emerged as a top-tier candidate in recent days after initially being viewed as a longshot for the job. Michèle Flournoy, Obama’s former Pentagon policy chief, was initially viewed as the frontrunner, but her name was notably absent from Biden’s rollout of key members of his national security team two weeks ago.

Biden had been under growing pressure to nominate a Black person to be his defense secretary in recent weeks. He chose Austin after also considering former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson for the job, several people familiar with the discussions said.

“General Austin is a southerner, has impeccable credentials given his military career and would be an outstanding secretary for the department,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), a CBC member who is close to Biden, told POLITICO earlier Monday.

A person familiar with Biden’s decision said the president-elect chose Austin because he is crisis-tested and respected across the military. Biden also trusts Austin, as they worked together when Biden served as vice president and had a large foreign policy portfolio.

The president-elect was also drawn to the history-making aspect of Austin’s nomination and his deep logistics experience, which will prove critical as the military helps distribute coronavirus vaccines, the person said.

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Biden offered Austin the job Sunday, and he accepted the same day, the person added.

Biden and Austin got to know each other during the Obama administration’s Iraq drawdown, when the former vice president led Iraq policy and Austin served as the last commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq. In that position, Austin played a key role in the surge of forces that began in 2007 and was in charge of the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces in 2011.

General Austin achieved a number of notable “firsts” over the course of his career. He was the first African American general officer to command a U.S. Army Division in combat (10th Mountain Division/Combined Joint Task Force-180).

He was the first African American General officer to lead a Corps in combat (XVIIIth Airborne Corps/Multi-National Corps-Iraq).

He was the first African American General officer to command an entire theater of war (U.S. Forces-Iraq). He was also the first African American to serve as the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army and as Commander of U.S. Central Command.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the U.S. Military Academy (USMA), a Master’s Degree in Education from Auburn University, and a Master’s Degree in Business Management from Webster University.

General Austin and his wife, Charlene reside in Great Falls, VA.

General Austin’s many awards and decorations include five Defense Distinguished Service Medals, the country’s highest non-combat related military award; three Distinguished Service Medals; the Silver Star, our nation’s third highest award for valor in combat; and two Legions of Merit.

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