Biden To Appoint Lloyd Austin As First Black Defense Secretary
President-elect Joe Biden will tap retired four-star Army general Lloyd J. Austin to serve as Secretary of Defense, which would make him the first black person to head the Pentagon.
As a career military officer, Austin would require a waiver from Congress, as the post was designed to allow civilians to have control of the military. While several former Defense Secretaries served in the military prior to their White House role, only two — George Marshall and James Mattis — have been career officers.
Mattis similarly required a waiver from Congress to serve in the role, as seven years had not past from his military retirement before he stepped in.
Austin graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1975 and served in the military for 41 years. During his service, Austin was commander in Baghdad of the Multinational Corps-Iraq in 2008; was the first black vice chief of staff of the Army in 2012 and led the US Central Command, where he worked to develop strategies to fight Islamic State insurgents in Iraq and Syria.
When he retired in 2016, former President Barack Obama praised his “character and competence.”
The nomination will likely appease those pushing for diversity among Biden’s cabinet, something he has promised to create.
“It’s a good choice that I think many in the civil rights community would support,” civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton said of Biden’s pick. “It’s the first time we have seen a person of color in that position. That means something, in a global view, especially after such an antagonistic relationship we had with the previous administration.”
Sharpton added that appointing the first black Secretary of Defense is “a step in the right direction but not the end of the walk.”