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Biden to Nominate Retired General Lloyd J. Austin as Secretary of Defense

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Joe Biden plans to nominate retired General Lloyd J. Austin III, who was head of Central Command, as Secretary of Defense, U.S. media reported Monday.

Austin, 67, was head of Central Command, in charge of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria, most of the countries where the United States has been at war.

The retired general held that post between 2013 and 2016, when he left the Army to join the private sector.

Austin will require a waiver -in addition to confirmation- from Congress to be appointed as head of the Pentagon, since the law sets a seven-year term retirement interval for former military, and only four years have passed.

It is similar to the situation encountered in 2017 by General James Mattis, President Donald Trump’s first Secretary of Defense.

The then-Democratic opposition in Congress was critical of the appointment since it required that exemption.

Austin was one of three candidates being talked about for the post alongside former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, also African-American, and perhaps the favorite, Pentagon official Michèle A. Flournoy.

Flournoy served as Undersecretary of Defense during Barack Obama’s presidency who was likewise viewed as the candidate best positioned to take over the Pentagon in a hypothetical Hillary Clinton victory in 2016.

In 2015, Austin came off badly in a congressional hearing in which he admitted that the Pentagon had spent $500 million on a program to train Syrian opposition fighters that was virtually useless.

After retiring from active duty, Austin joined the boards of directors of Raytheon Technologies, one of the Pentagon’s largest contractors; Nucor, the largest steel producer in the United States; and the medical insurance company Tenet.

Biden thus continues to complete his Cabinet following the appointments of Janet Yellen to the Treasury, Antony Blinken as Secretary of State, Alejandro Mayorkas as head of Homeland Security, and Xavier Becerra at Health and Human Services.

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