Biden reportedly taps retired general Lloyd Austin as defense secretary
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden is expected to name retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as his defense secretary, according to a new report, a choice that seemed a long shot as recently as last week.
Austin, the former commander of US Central Command, emerged as a front-runner in recent days as Biden came under increasing pressure to make more black appointments to high profile cabinet positions, according to a Politico report.
Michele Flournoy was widely considered to be the frontrunner for the job after serving as a defense undersecretary under President Barack Obama and deputy assistant secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, and would have been the first woman to run the Pentagon.
Biden has vowed to create the most diverse cabinet in US history and on Sunday announced he had selected California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to serve as his secretary of Health and Human Services.
If confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate, Becerra would be the first Latino to hold the role.
The announcement of Austin as Biden’s Pentagon chief could come as early as Tuesday, Politico reported.
Earlier Monday, the former veep told reporters that he would also announce his attorney general pick sometime this week.
House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) endorsed Flournoy on Monday and said he had made those feelings known to Biden’s transition team.
“I’ve certainly communicated to the Biden people that I think Michèle Flournoy is hands down the best qualified person for the job,” Smith told reporters.
But defense sources speaking to Politico said Austin would be more loyal to Biden’s agenda and was a safer choice, even though others griped that he “just doesn’t knock your socks off.”
“I just don’t see him as an independent thinker,” one former defense official groused to the publication.