There’s new defense secretary nominee in town, and his name is Lloyd Austin III. President-elect Biden has tapped former Gen. Austin to be the first Black Secretary of Defense. However, Austin’s nomination is not without controversy.
Lloyd Austin was a commander of U.S. forces in Iraq before his retirement. He also served as the commander of U.S. Central Command. “General Austin is a southerner, has impeccable credentials given his military career and would be an outstanding secretary for the department,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, told Politico.
There is, however, a provision that requires the Secretary of Defense to have been a civilian for seven years. Austin has only been out of the military for five. Some Democrats are raising the alarm. While Austin would not be the first to require a waiver – Mattis received one a few years ago – some representatives argues that poses a problem and sets a dangerous precedent. “Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, had indicated after Mr. Mattis’s confirmation that he would oppose future waivers for the post,” the New York Times reported.
A New Era?
Austin was originally considered a long shot for the position. Michele Flounery and Gen. Jeh Jameson were considered more likely picks. Austin, while a capable commander, is not considered politically astute. However, the New York Times reports that “People close to the transition noted that, during the Obama presidency, Mr. Biden was unhappy with the high profile of the Pentagon. …And the belief that the Pentagon rolled President Barack Obama into increasing troop numbers in Afghanistan. General Austin’s lower profile…may match with Mr. Biden’s hopes for a more muted Defense Department.”