President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin as his secretary of defense, The New York Times reports.
Austin, 67, would become the first Black secretary of defense if he is confirmed.
Austin was the first Black officer to head US Central Command and served as the commander of US military forces in Iraq.
He is best known as a “battlefield commander” but may lack the “political instincts” to head the Pentagon, the report noted.
Biden’s pick came after he faced pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus to name a Black defense secretary or attorney general.
Austin retired from the military as a four-star general in 2016 after serving 41 years.
After retiring, he served on the board of the defense contractor Raytheon Technologies.
Others passed over:
Austin’s pick comes after weeks of reports suggesting that Biden would select former Pentagon official Michele Flournoy as his defense chief.
Flournoy had served in the Defense Department in numerous roles and would have been the first woman to head the Pentagon.
Biden also selected Austin over former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who also previously worked as the general counsel at the Pentagon.
Johnson was “considered by many to be a more politically astute pick for the first Black man to head the Defense Department,” The Times reported.
Austin needs special waiver:
Federal law requires a seven-year waiting period between active duty and becoming the Defense Secretary, meaning that Austin will require a congressional waiver because he only retired four years ago.
Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis likewise required a waiver to be confirmed.
It is not a done deal that Austin would get a waiver.
Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, suggested that he would oppose future waivers after Mattis’ confirmation.
“But for Mr. Reed to reject the first African-American nominated to be defense secretary, after approving Mr. Mattis, would be notable,” The Times added.