President-elect Joe Biden has selected retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as his defense secretary and will lead the Pentagon, he announced on Tuesday afternoon.
The news comes just two weeks after Biden named the other members of his national security team. Reports say Michèle Flournoy was a frontrunner for the job but the President-elect has been under growing pressure to tap a Black person to be his defense secretary.
“Today, I ask Lloyd Austin to once more take on a mission for the United States of America–this time as the secretary-designate of the Department of Defense. I know he will do an outstanding job,” Biden wrote in an op-ed published by The Atlantic on Tuesday.
“In his more than 40 years in the United States Army, Austin met every challenge with extraordinary skill and profound personal decency. He is a true and tested soldier and leader. I’ve spent countless hours with him, in the field and in the White House Situation Room.”
Politico was the first to report the story.
If he is confirmed by the Senate, Austin would be the first Black man to lead the Department of Defense.
Austin is a former commander of United States Central Command and he previously served as the vice chief of staff of the Army.
Jeh Johnson, a former secretary of Homeland security, was also under consideration along with Flournoy. However, he had been criticized for his record on expanding family detention and accelerating deportations.
Austin’s nomination could also see some trouble in the confirmation hearings as he would be the second retired general to lead the Pentagon after President Donald Trump chose Jim Mattis in 2017.
Austin served as the top U.S. commander in Iraq and was in charge of the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces in 2011. He was also the first Black vice chief of staff of the Army.
It is also being reported Biden will announce his pick for Attorney General in the next week or so. The President-elect has been under pressure from the Hispanic caucus to name a Latino to the post with many wanting Chair of the Democratic National Committee Tom Perez to get the nod.
Other names linked to the Attorney General are Preet Bharara and Sally Yates.
The 67-year-old Austin retired in 2016 after 41 years of service and would transition to work at Raytheon Technologies on their board of directors. He is a trustee of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.