Biden picks retired general Lloyd Austin to run Pentagon – Politico

Biden had been under growing pressure to nominate a Black individual to be his protection secretary in latest weeks. He selected Austin after additionally contemplating former Homeland Safety Secretary Jeh Johnson for the job, a number of individuals accustomed to the discussions stated.

Lingering issues about Johnson’s tenure within the Obama administration improved Austin’s standing amongst Congressional Black Caucus members in latest days, in accordance to two individuals, together with a Home Democratic aide. Johnson has been criticized for his report on increasing household detention and accelerating deportations, in addition to approving tons of of drone strikes towards suspected terrorists that killed civilians.

“General Austin is a southerner, has impeccable credentials given his navy profession and could be an excellent secretary for the division,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), a CBC member who’s shut to Biden, instructed POLITICO earlier Monday.

Austin declined to remark via a spokesperson. A spokesperson for the Biden transition staff additionally declined to remark.

Biden and Austin acquired to know one another in the course of the Obama administration’s Iraq drawdown, when the previous vp led Iraq coverage and Austin served because the final commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq. In that place, Austin performed a key function within the surge of forces that started in 2007 and was accountable for the withdrawal of U.S. fight forces in 2011.

Austin’s nomination could run into bother on Capitol Hill. Austin has not been out of the navy for the required seven years and would wish a waiver from Congress to change into secretary of Protection — and lawmakers have signaled their wariness of granting one more exception for a retired general to lead the Pentagon simply 4 years after President Donald Trump sought one for his first protection secretary, Jim Mattis.

Austin’s candidacy has additionally been met with resistance from some nationwide safety consultants, who expressed concern concerning the stability of civil-navy energy within the Pentagon below one more retired general.

“From a civil-navy relations perspective, this looks like a horrible concept,” tweeted Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown College professor and former Pentagon official who wrote an op-ed in The New York Occasions calling for a woman to be chosen as Defense secretary. “A number of harm in the course of the Trump period. Particularly after Mattis, Kelly, McMaster, Flynn…. placing a just lately retired 4 star, regardless of how fantastic, into the highest civilian DoD place sends the worst doable message.”

One other knock towards Austin is that he would not have the identical star energy as Mattis or the opposite 4-star officers of that interval. “He simply doesn’t knock your socks off,” stated a former protection official shut to the transition. “I simply don’t see him as an impartial thinker.”

Nevertheless, the Biden staff noticed Austin because the protected alternative, stated one former protection official shut to the transition, including that the retired general is believed to be an excellent soldier who would perform the president-elect’s agenda.

“There could be much less pressure” with Austin as protection secretary as a substitute of Johnson or Flournoy, the individual stated. “Perhaps much less disagreement … the connection could be smoother.”

CBC Chair Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) on Sunday instructed CNN that her caucus was backing each Austin and Johnson for Protection secretary, noting {that a} particular CBC activity power has been assembly weekly with the Biden-Harris transition staff.

However the place wasn’t unanimous among the many CBC members.

Rep. Anthony Brown of Maryland, the one CBC member on the Armed Companies Committee, and Rep. Marc Veasey of Texas backed Flournoy in a letter to Biden final week.

The pair praised her expertise within the Clinton and Obama administrations, which they stated is required to retrain the navy on matching good points by China and reorienting U.S. counterterrorism insurance policies for a brand new period, and praised Flournoy as “a tireless advocate for variety and inclusion in nationwide safety.”

And on Monday, Home Armed Companies Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.) got here out in assist of Flournoy.

“I’ve actually communicated to the Biden those that I believe Michèle Flournoy is fingers down the very best certified individual for the job. That doesn’t imply that she’s the one one that can do the job … however I believe Michèle Flournoy is uniquely certified.”

Throughout his many years of service, Austin earned a status for avoiding the limelight and infrequently took half in public occasions equivalent to press conferences or assume tank discussions.

As well as to the opposite firsts, he was additionally the primary Black vice chief of employees of the Military, the service’s second rating officer.

In 2013, President Barack Obama named him to run Central Command, answerable for all U.S. navy operations within the Center East, the place he oversaw operations towards the Islamic State when it took over giant swaths of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

He confronted notably robust questions in 2015 about the U.S. military’s role training forces in Syria to battle the Islamic State in the course of the nation’s civil conflict, acknowledging that the U.S. spent some $500 million however educated solely a handful of fighters.

One other cloud hanging over the command on the time was allegations that Central Command downplayed intelligence studies on the menace posed by the terrorist group and painted a brighter image of the progress of U.S. navy efforts.

Austin’s command was cleared in an investigation by the Protection Division’s inspector general in 2017.

He retired after 41 years in 2016 and joined the board of directors of Raytheon Technologies, one of many largest Pentagon contractors and a possible sticking level amongst progressive lawmakers, who’ve raised issues over appointing a Protection secretary who has ties with trade. He’s additionally on the board of Nucor, the biggest American metal producer, in addition to health care company Tenet. He’s a trustee of the Carnegie Company of New York, a philanthropic basis.

Public data present that he has his personal consulting agency, Austin Technique Group, LLC in Nice Falls, Va.

Bryan Bender contributed to this report.

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